LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - At a press conference Wednesday discussing the destruction of the newly erected Ten Commandments monument, State Senator Jason Rapert criticized local media and claimed a rise in hateful rhetoric is inciting violence across the country.
Early Wednesday morning, Michael Reed ran his car into the Ten Commandments monument at the Arkansas State Capitol while yelling, "Freedom!" This is the second confirmed time Reed has destroyed a monument. Back in 2014, he was arrested in Oklahoma for crashing his truck into their Ten Commandments monument.
Rapert claimed at the press conference that Reed had previously made threats against President Barack Obama and said that he could be mentally ill. In a letter to the Tulsa World, Reed claimed he had a psychotic break due to a Dracula film and believing that Michael Jackson's spirit was living inside meat.
"Is there something wrong with America when somebody can be so motivated by hatred that they can carry out an act of violence, in this case, against the State Capitol," Rapert said, questioning the motive behind Reed's action.
The state senator compared destroying the monument to the same kind of hatred which was behind the motivation for the Congressional baseball shooting in Virginia.
In response to a question about a potential lawsuit by the ACLU, Rapert questioned the "culpability" and rhetoric of groups like the ACLU, Freethinkers societies, and the Satanic Temple. He said their promises to "tear down that monument" incite mentally ill people by way of "fomenting hatred and violence."
Rita Sklar with the ACLU of Arkansas condemned the actions of Reed and any "illegal act of destruction or vandalism." She said the group will continue to work on striking down the "unconstitutional monument" through legal avenues.
Rapert then criticized local news media, saying some reports and articles have "not been appropriate." Though he didn't specify certain articles, he singled out the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and said he expected them "deliver news."
"When they use their columns to berate, belittle, and intimidate people in their columns, using language that isn't appropriate, you have to understand that has the ability to foment hatred," he said.
During the press conference, Rapert confirmed that the process to replace the destroyed monument is underway and a replacement should be finished in the coming months.