What to Know
- Toms River Regional school board member Daniel Leonard is being urged to resign following his Facebook comments against Muslims
- At a meeting on Wednesday, Leonard defended his Facebook posts, saying that his comments were taken out of context by CAIR
- However, NJ Gov. Murphy and Lt. Gov. Oliver say they agree that the posts are hateful and racist
The governor and lieutenant governor of New Jersey have joined the call for a state school board member to resign following his online comments against Muslims, including one that said "my life would be complete if she/they die" as he shared an article about Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib calling for a hunger strike to end ICE.
At a profanity-laced school board meeting Wednesday, Toms River Regional school board member Daniel Leonard defended his Facebook posts, saying that his comments were taken out of context by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The organization called for his resignation Tuesday.
"My point was let her starve, and I'd say it again, how is that offensive to Muslims?," Leonard said.
Things got heated at the meeting when the public stepped up to the microphone to make comments. One man stormed out of the auditorium while shouting profanities. The 42-year-old board member appeared unapologetic and challenged those who stepped up to the podium to criticize him and the board.
The school board's attorney Stephan R. Leone on Tuesday told Asbury Park Press that Leonard's Facebook posts are inappropriate and don't reflect the board's opinions.
Leonard, who's also the chair of the Safety, Security & Transportation Committee, also shared a video of Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar on April 12 and commented "Terrorist ........ 100%."
In another Facebook post on April 28, Leonard shared a photo of a barbie doll wearing a hijab with purple bruises on her face.
CAIR officials say his "bigoted, hateful and threatening" posts disqualify him from serving as an education official.
"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. This is just a painful reminder of the extreme divisiveness that characterizes the current political climate at the national level," CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Sues said in a statement.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver on Wednesday agreed that Leonard's comments were hateful and racist, saying that she and Gov. Phil Murphy urge him to resign.
The New Jersey Department of Education is also looking into the matter, according to Oliver.