In a new take on an old smear, the husband of Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch is accused of posing for a picture with a group of men making a "white power" hand gesture.
Since Kleefisch officially announced a run for governor last week, several supporters have reported receiving anonymous letters with a cropped photo of her husband, former Wisconsin Representative Joel Kleefisch, standing with a group of "Three Percenters"--a number of whom have their hands posed in an "okay" sign that some believe to mean "white power."
"What is troubling is that you are supporting Ms. Kleefisch as a candidate for the Governor of Wisconsin, while her family, her husband is standing with those who clearly represent the values of Racism, Hate Speech and Bigotry," the letter reads. "Maybe it is your stance to support Racism, Hate Speech, and Bigotry."
The letter was accompanied by a cropped version of a picture posted to Joel Kleefisch's Facebook page in 2017 that shows him posed with Three Percenters following a speech at the Range of Richfield.
"Got to speak to the 3 percenters, an organization dedicated to the Constitution and the second amendment," Kleefisch posted in the caption to the photo. "Was a great reason to go to the range of Richfield!"
"We hear about how the Republican Party was founded here in Wisconsin, and how they truly are the part [sic] of 'inclusion,'" the letter accompanying the picture reads. "We hear about how Wisconsin was one of the States that battled against the hate of racism, all the way back to the Civil War.
"Our society hopes that you takes [sic] this into consideration, before you support those that represent and associate with; Racists, Hate Speakers and Bigots."
The picture, however, seems to be deliberately cropped to exclude Kleefisch's friend, a Black man, who was also posing with the group.
The reason that the cropped photo and not the uncropped version is included with the letter is obvious: A true white supremacist group would be highly unlikely to welcome a Black man to its meeting.
The Three Percenters consider themselves to be a patriotic group whose name refers to the mistaken belief that only three percent of colonists fought for American during the Revolutionary War. The far-left Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Three Percenters as an antigovernment group but, interestingly, does not label them explicitly racist.
Instead, it identifies them as part of the "Antigovernment Movement" and notes that a given group's "listing here does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities or are racist."
Still, the photo caused a minor controversy when it was first posted, as The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice wrote a lengthy story on it, noting that "Kleefisch said he accepted an invitation from a longtime friend, Gary Oliver, to speak with the Three Percenter affiliate at the Range of Richfield — which advertises itself as 'the ultimate shooting experience' — a couple of weeks ago about the current legislative session."
"I was asked to speak to a patriot group," Kleefisch told Bice at the time. "I spoke to a patriot group."
In the days since his wife formally announced her gubernatorial run, though, Joel Kleefisch's speech has garnered renewed attention online, with a number of Facebook and Twitter users posting the cropped version of the photo.
The social media posts combined with physical letters sent to Rebecca Kleefisch supporters shortly after her announcement suggest a coordinated effort to resurrect the story in an effort to derail her gubernatorial run in its early stages, but this new round of attacks features a cropped version of the photo that strategically removes Joel Kleefisch's friend, whose presence tends to prove that Kleefisch was not speaking to a white supremacist group.
Any suggestion that he was, then, is a thoroughly dishonest smear that should not be taken seriously.