A New Jersey school board member has faced calls to resign after he made offensive comments on Facebook targetting congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Taking to Facebook, Daniel Leonard, a member of the Toms River Board of Education in New Jersey, said that he refused to step down over the comments, which he shared to his Facebook account in April.
In one post, Leonard referred to Omar as a 'terrorist', and in another, he says his 'life would be complete' if Tlaib were dead.
In another post, Leonard shared an Islamophobic fake advert for 'Sharia Barbie', which was described as having “JIHAB, BRUISES & QURAN.” The term “JIHAB” appears to be referencing a hijab, or Muslim headscarf.
Leonard is an enthusiastic supporter of Trump and a decorated combat veteran.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that Leonard's comments are:
Totally inappropriate, not condoned by the Board of Education, and do not reflect the board’s attitude or opinions.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Sues said:
He’s very unrepentant.
He didn’t seem to make the connection why this would be harmful.
On Wednesday, about 10 community members attended a board meeting in order to express their outrage and concern over Leonard's position. Members of the public said that Leonard was "smirking" and "being rather belligerent" throughout.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, they said:
He even spoke from the stage from his position in an out-of-order way.
The president of the school board had to rap his gavel several times.
Leonard, who is up for reelection in November, defended his comments in a series of Facebook posts on Thursday. Taking to the social media platform, he wrote:
My point is that if a US congresswoman wants to starve herself to death during an anti-Trump publicity seeking Faux Hunger Strike while protesting a Federal Agency Of The United States - GOOD RIDDANCE!
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Sues said:
The bigoted views expressed by Mr. Leonard have no place in an educational system that seeks to celebrate diversity and encourage students of all faiths and backgrounds to excel scholastically and to make positive contributions to our society.
Joseph Nardini, president of the Toms River School Board, issued a statement Thursday condemning Leonard's comments, and calling on him to resign.
In a statement, he said:
I do not condone ― and in fact denounce ― the social media posts shared by my colleague and fellow Board Member Daniel Leonard.
We must lead by example and set an example to our students and community that reflect our goals, ideals and vision for the future of this District.