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Maine House censures two GOP members for blaming mass shooting on abortion law

‘Your remarks were extremely offensive and intentionally harmful to the victims and the families of the Lewiston tragedy, the House of Representatives, and the people of Maine,’ wrote Speaker Talbot Ross

By Evan Popp, Maine Morning Star - April 11, 2024
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FILE - A make-shift memorial lines Main Street, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023, Lewiston, Maine. The commanding officer of an Army reservist responsible for the deadliest shooting in Maine history acknowledged to an independent commission on Thursday, April 11, 2024, that he didn’t closely monitor the reservist’s medical care after he was discharged from a psychiatric hospital. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

The Maine House on Thursday censured two Republican representatives in response to comments that tied the Legislature’s enactment of an abortion bill last year to the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. 

The censure resolution — an official statement of condemnation by the Legislature — was introduced against Republican Reps. Michael Lemelin of Chelsea and Shelley Rudnicki of Fairfield. During a debate on a proposed shield law Wednesday night, Lemelin implied that the Legislature’s passage of a bill expanding access to abortion later in pregnancy, LD 1619, caused the Lewiston shooting by invoking God’s wrath.

The vote to censure the lawmakers was done by unanimous consent and without debate. Following the censure, Lemelin and Rudnicki issued nearly identical apologies on the House floor. 

On Wednesday night, Lemelin said there had been five consequences of approving LD 1619, and implied that the severe storms that have ripped through Maine in the past several months represent four of those consequences. Lemelin then noted that the new abortion law went into effect on Oct. 25 of last year. 

“When 1619 passed and went into law on October 25, you told God life doesn’t matter,” he said. 

“Keep in mind that the law came into effect on October 25. God heard you and the horrible events on October 25 happened,” Lemelin continued, referring to the mass shooting that killed 18, wounded 13 others and rocked the state. 

Following that speech, Rudnicki rose to say she agreed with Lemelin’s remarks. 

Lemelin’s comments were castigated by members of both parties. And in a letter to Lemelin and Rudnicki before Thursday’s vote, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) — who ruled both lawmakers out of order on Wednesday — said the comments were a violation of the House rules of decorum and told them they would be barred from speaking or voting until they issued a formal apology. She also informed the two Republicans of Thursday’s censure vote against them.

“Your remarks were extremely offensive and intentionally harmful to the victims and the families of the Lewiston tragedy, the House of Representatives, and the people of Maine,” Talbot Ross said in her letter to Lemelin. “The behavior and your language violated the order of decorum of the House chamber. Your actions are deserving of the most serious consequences this body can deliver.” 

The censure resolution itself called both Lemelin and Rudnicki’s behavior “reprehensible” and incompatible with their “responsibilities as a member of this House and the public trust and high standards incumbent in that office.” 

After the resolution passed, Talbot Ross called both Lemelin and Rudnicki onto the floor of the House to announce that they had been censured. 

Afterward, both Lemelin and Rudnicki apologized, making almost identical short remarks.

“Please accept this formal apology,” Lemelin said. “I accept full responsibility for my remarks on the House floor on the evening of April 10. I publicly apologize to my colleagues in the House, the people connected to the horrible events of Oct. 25 and to the state of Maine.”

This story was originally published in the Maine Morning Star


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