Comment on state representative's Facebook causing controversy - WSMV Channel 4

Comment on state representative's Facebook page causing controversy

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A state representative is under fire for a comment on her Facebook page, and a civil rights organization is now blasting her for it.

The comment appears to have been made by Rep. Sheila Butt, a Republican from District 64.

The post, which has since been deleted, said, "It's time for a council on Christian relations and an NAAWP in this country."

NAAWP was a term used by former KKK leader David Duke. It stood for National Association for the Advancement of White People.

Butt told Channel 4 she had no idea what the acronym stood for when she used it. She thought it stood for "western people."

"It's humorous because I had no clue," Butt said.

Butt responded to an open letter posted on Facebook by the Council of American-Islamic Relations asking presidential candidates to reject the fear of Islam. She also said this country needs more groups that stand for western culture.

The Council of American-Islamic Relations issued the following statement on Wednesday: "This bit of not-too-subtle racism should be repudiated by the Republican Party leaders in Tennessee and nationwide. The Republican Party must distance itself from those who espouse racist or Islamophobic views."

Butt said she wants all people to have a seat at the table, including western Christians. When asked if that refers to white people, Butt said she doesn't think so.

Butt also said she has no preconceived notions about Muslims.

"I don't know much about Islamophobia," Butt said. "And I don't think Republican leaders have ever had Islamophobia."

The lawmaker also said 'western culture' refers to more than just white Christians. The notion confuses Butt's critics.

"Western Christians, we own the table," said Greg Hanners, the chairman for the Maury County Democratic Party. "It's our table. Why do we need a seat? It's ridiculous."

"It's unfortunate for hate speech to go through mainstream media. I think the people of Tennessee deserve much better than this," said Rayid Alkasem, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Nashville.

Butt reiterated that her comments had nothing to do with racism.

"I came from Rockford, Ill., so racism was never part of my culture, never has been part of my culture," she said. 

Butt won her seat in 2010. She recently became the majority floor leader. 

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini released this statement on Wednesday: “At a time when nearly 300,000 hardworking Tennesseans don't have healthcare because Republicans refuse to support Insure Tennessee, it is disappointing to see Rep. Butt spending her time spreading her own poisonous personal beliefs on Facebook instead of focusing on passing legislation that would help hundreds of thousands of hardworking Tennesseans across the state.”

People have flocked to Butt's own Facebook page to share their messages of support. 

"Madam Representative, welcome to our modern world where normal folks like us are considered racist just because we refuse to cow tow (sic) to the Islamists," one person wrote.

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