A Missouri House Republican leader, Bill Lant, cut off the microphone for the state's NAACP Nimrod Chapel during a public hearing.
Chapel was speaking out against a bill that would require plaintiffs bringing discrimination lawsuits to prove that race, religion, sex or other protected status was the motivating factor for discrimination or being fired, rather than just a contributing factor. It also would prevent employees from suing other employees and cap damages.
So basically, if someone is fired because they’re black, it would be called discrimination. However, if they’re fired because they aren’t efficient with the job, and are black, but their white coworker who also isn’t efficient with the job is retained, the act wouldn’t be recognized as discriminatory.
A video released by Progress Missouri, a liberal advocacy group, showed Lant silencing Chapel’s mic while he spoke against the bill.
“Please contain your speech to speaking on the bill, sir," Lant said to which Chapel replied: "You do not legalize discrimination on an individual basis and call it anything else."
Lant then called on another speaker, cutting off Chapel. Rep. Gina Mitten supported Chapel, saying that he hadn’t been given as much time as others to speak about the issue.
“We had five minutes for each witness and he’s not done,” she said.
But Lant persisted to call upon the next witness.
"If there isn't another witness that would like to speak, I will cancel this hearing. ... I asked the man to speak on the subject, he’s not speaking on the subject,” he said.
Chapel, along with other witnesses, is demanding that Lant be replaced as chairman of the House Special Committee on Litigation Reform.
"A white man abused his power to stop a black man from expressing a contrary view, and on legislation that seeks to turn back the clock on Missouri's anti-discrimination laws, no less," House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty wrote in a letter to the Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson.
So far, Richardson has refused to demote Lant, telling Chapel he is "always welcome" to present his views and the views of the organization.
In the meanwhile, Lant told the Associated Press he apologizes if Chapel felt he was being discriminated against.
"I was trying to control the hearing. I had made the statement early in the hearing that time was precious, that we were trying to conserve time (and) that we were asking everyone to stay on point. He was off point,” he said.
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