NJ school official defiant after hoping for Muslim lawmaker’s death
TOMS RIVER — Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver has called for the resignation of a township school board member whose provocative social media posts included a statement hoping that a Muslim congresswoman would die.
Oliver also said the the Department of Education was investigating the posts by Daniel Leonard.
Leonard is refusing to step down but said Thursday that he would be "more cautious" with his personal Facebook posts, which sparked at least two Muslim rights organizations to call for his resignation.
A Board of Education meeting Wednesday night drew at least a dozen speakers and heightened media attention.
"Although I will not apologize or resign over the mischaracterization of my 'out of context posts' — we did agree to disagree and I did reassure them that I understand the position that some of them felt the need to take," Leonard said.
He also said he met with Muslim members of the community and representatives for the Council on American-Islamic Relations after a "rather contentious (board) meeting."
"Sadly, my personal posts have obviously impacted the district and I will be more cautious going forward as we continue our fight against the Loss in State Aid," Leonard said Thursday night on his Facebook page.
Among posts under scrutiny, Leonard shared one in April depicting an image of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and a headline that said she called "for hunger strikes to end ICE" with the added personal caption, “My life would be complete if she/they die ...”
As reported by the Asbury Park Press, Leonard defended his Tlaib post during Wednesday night's meeting, saying that "the congresswoman is trying to shut down a federal agency of the government, right, so my point was, 'let her starve.' And I say it again, how is that offensive to Muslims? Just because she's Muslim?"
Oliver said late Wednesday on Twitter: "We are disheartened by the racist comments made by a school board member in Toms River. His hateful language is counter to the best interests of our students and doesn't represent our values. Gov. Murphy and I urge him to resign."
Board Attorney Melanie Szuba Appleby said state law prohibits the board from collectively filing a complaint against a fellow board member with the state School Ethics Commission, although an individual can file such a complaint.
By late Thursday morning, Leonard posted several times on his Team Leonard page.
"Since people don’t like the Facts they feel their defense is to paint me as a Fascist, Racist, Nazi, Bigot etc. #TypicalLeftPlaybook," he said in one post, along with an address to send donations for his re-election campaign.
A separate April post by Leonard shared a video featuring U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Muslim immigrant, with Leonard's caption: "Terrorist....... 100%."
The post he shared referred to her controversial quote from a speech regarding the 9/11 attacks. At a March banquet for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Omar said “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
Other, more recent Facebook posts by Leonard also make derogatory references to "Sharia law."
When asked for comment, Leonard said in a written response: "there is a difference between being Anti-Muslim and Anti-Sharia Law! I am Anti-Sharia Law as should every United States Citizen!"
This is the second time this month that Leonard, a Beachwood resident, is making headlines. Leonard was ticketed two weeks ago in an alleged road rage incident in Toms River, given summonses for reckless driving and failure to maintain travel lane.
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