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Oklahoma lawmaker hangs picture switch on joke, beliefs

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: March 17, 2010 at 8:07 am •  Published: March 17, 2010
A freshman Republican lawmaker stepped forward Tuesday and said he moved the portrait of President Barack Obama that hangs in the House chamber "to bring levity to what was otherwise a very contentious day.”

"Why are you guys making such a big deal about something that was just a joke?” asked Rep. Lewis Moore in a telephone interview. "It was totally to kind of ease the pressure off of what was otherwise kind of a really nasty day. It wasn’t meant in any harm whatsoever.”

Moore, of Arcadia, said he switched the Democratic president’s portrait with the portrait of Gov. Brad Henry on Thursday, the deadline for House-generated measures to be advanced to the Senate and before a measure critical of Obama’s health care reform efforts came up on the floor.

"I moved the pictures,” Moore said in a statement, which he said was requested by House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. "I apologize if my intent was misinterpreted.”

Moore, elected in 2008, said he did not apologize for his position "against federal health care and against the liberal policies coming from the Obama administration, which was the sole motivation for moving the picture. I absolutely respect the office of the president, but disagree vehemently with our current president’s policies.”

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, who brought up the portrait switching as he debated against a measure that would let Oklahomans decide whether to opt out of any proposed federal health care reform plan, said he wasn’t moved by Moore’s statement.

"It just seemed a half-hearted attempt, more of an intentional swipe at the president rather than just humbling himself saying he’s sorry and he messed up,” Shelton said. "He decided he wanted to take a political stand once again in his apology.”

Shelton said Moore should apologize from the House floor.

"It’s a sign of disrespect that has never been seen in the House of Representatives to my knowledge,” Shelton said.

Shelton, a member of the House black caucus, said he is not sure that Moore was the only one to have moved the president’s portrait.

Portraits secured
After the incident House Speaker Chris Benge ordered that each portrait be secured to the back wall in the House chamber. They have been bolted to the wall.


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