A West Virginia city councilman seemed to insinuate that women should prepare to have dangerous back alley abortions in light of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Better get you’re coathangers ready liberals,” (sic) Parkersburg City Councilman Eric Barber, an anti-abortion activist, wrote in a now-deleted Facebook comment to a private group after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin – a Democrat – announced he would support Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The comment can still be seen thanks to screenshots shared by local residents.
Women’s rights groups fear Kavanaugh, a conservative justice whose nomination by President Trump was first approved by the right-wing, anti-abortion Federalist Society, could overturn Roe v. Wade – the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Coat hangers are often cited as a tool that was used to induce unsafe abortions when women did not have access to legal abortions by licensed practicians.
Deep South Voice verified the veracity of the screenshots by speaking to multiple residents who saw and made screenshots of the comment.
(Note: This story has been updated; see below near bottom.)
Eric Engle, a local activist, shared a screenshot of the comment and called Barber “the most worthless piece of human garbage I’ve ever encountered.”
“Eric Barber really posted this, yes he did,” wrote a resident of nearby Charleston, West Virginia who lists herself on Facebook as CorneliaBelle Calvert LeFevre. “He thought these words through and posted these violent words. Please understand, he is directing this little cowardly word spam toward WOMEN.You are the vilest of scum, Eric Barber.”
Voters first elected Barber in November 2016, when he ran as a Democrat. He left the party in 2017 and became an independent, accusing Wood County Democratic Party Chairman Daryl Cobranchi of “anti-Christian rhetoric” after Barber refused to a support a non-discrimination ordinance Cobranchi supported. The ordinance would’ve extended nondiscrimination protections to LGBT residents.
After his “coathangers” comment, residents posted screenshots of other comments Barber has made during his time as a city councilman. In one comment, posted on a video about a young boy who dresses in drag, Barber tagged one local gay rights advocate, writing that he “may be quick to defend this form of child exploitation because he may be one of the many gay men who enjoys watching pre-puberty boys compete in drag shows.”
In another screenshot, he referred to himself as a “head hunter” of “alt left liberals.”
Local plaintiffs include [Wood County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chairman] Daryl Cobranchi, who has frequently attended meetings and been directed to stand for the Lord’s prayer, a practice, he notes, which has made him conspicuous by his nonparticipation and which “assigns to second-class status anyone who is not Christian.” Likewise, Eric Engle, also a Parkersburg resident, follows city matters and has felt uncomfortable and pressured to participate in the Christian prayer during public meetings.
At least one member of the City Council has been openly hostile to nonparticipants, the legal complaint charges. Councilman Eric Barber glared at attendees who sat during the prayer at a meeting in September. At the end of that prayer, Barber positioned himself near his microphone, pressed the button, and shouted, “Amen.”
Neither the Parkersburg City Council nor Eric Barber returned a request for comment as of Sunday afternoon, but Stacy Nanette, a Mississippi resident who heard about Barber’s comment through social media, did get in contact with Bob Mercer, another Parkersburg City Councilman.
“We on Council are kept to a higher standard,” Mercer wrote, saying he’d spoken to Barber about the comment. “Understand that this statement does not reflect the feelings [of others on Council].”
(h/t: Stacy Nanette)
Update (10/7/18, 12:51 p.m. CST): Barber’s fellow councilman, Bob Mercer, wrote the following in defense of Barber in a message to Deep South Voice: “When he was in Washington DC this year the day Justice Kavanaugh was nominated a lady threw a coat hanger at him and hit him in the face for being happy about it. He admitted that he should have explained it instead of letting it sit there.”
Deep South Voice was unable to verify Barber and Mercer’s claim that a protester threw a coat hanger at Barber, and Barber did not respond to a request for comment to explain his “coat hanger” comment.