July 24, 2019
A member of the Toms River Regional school board is facing a potential board of ethics investigation after he said on Facebook that his "life would be complete" if U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib died.
Daniel Leonard, 42, of Beachwood, Ocean County, is a retired member of the U.S. military and has served on the regional school board since 2016, according to the Asbury Park Press.
Leonard allegedly made the Facebook posts in question in mid-April. The post about Tlaib, who is a Democrat and a Muslim, linked to a Fox News article about Tlaib calling for a hunger strike in response to U.S. Customs & Immigration Enforcement's handling of immigrants at the U.S. border.
Leonard also posted about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, also a Democrat and a Muslim, in April. In that post, Leonard wrote "Terrorist ..... 100%" while linking to a post discussing a widely-spread quote, shared by President Donald Trump, from Omar about the Sept. 11 attacks, in which she allegedly said "some people did something" during the attacks. The Washington Post's fact check ruled that President Trump twisted and misrepresented Omar's words to achieve his point.
As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the posts were still up on Leonard's personal Facebook page.
Toms River Regional School Board attorney Stephan R. Leone told the Asbury Park Press that the comments on Leonard's Facebook page were "totally inappropriate, not condoned by the Board of Education, and do not reflect the board's attitude or opinions."
Leone said the school board will "determine what school board ethics violations may have occurred" and then proceed from there.
The New Jersey branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for Leonard to resign on Tuesday, describing his posts as "bigoted, hateful, and threatening".
"The bigoted views expressed by Mr. Leonard have no place in an educational system that seeks to celebrate diversity and encourage students of all faiths and backgrounds to excel scholastically and to make positive contributions to our society," CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Sues wrote in a statement.
On Wednesday morning, Leonard continued to post on his personal Facebook page and defend himself.
"I mean call me crazy ..... But didn't I spend a good part of my life abroad protecting Muslims from Radicalized Islamic Fundamentalists?" Leonard wrote on his personal page.
He also wrote on a Facebook page called Team Leonard, a page focused on Leonard's job on the school board and his re-election, saying that there is "a difference between being Anti-Muslim and Anti-Sharia Law", and repeatedly characterizing CAIR as a terrorist organization.