Gabrielle Hanson, the MAGA-loving mayoral candidate who’s become embroiled in controversy after controversy this year, has done it again—this time inserting screenshots of messages from a known white nationalist group into her own news release.
Hanson, who’s vying to become the mayor of Franklin, Tennessee, shared the messages in an attempt to prove that the Tennessee Active Club—recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center—weren’t invited to provide security for her outside a mayoral forum on Monday. She claimed they instead showed up and acted on their own.
But Hanson never condemned the neo-Nazis in her news release, nor did she ask them to not show up at future forums and events. Instead, she embedded three Telegram messages to a news release that did more to promote the hate group than it did to denounce it.
The posts claimed the current Franklin mayor, Ken Moore, has connections to “antifa”—a blanket term for a loosely affiliated network of anti-fascist groups that have battled right-wing demonstrators at various public gatherings over the past few years—and that the group of white nationalists showed up to provide security for community members.
“Our group is not backing any political entity but is protecting the public from Antifa,” the first message said. “Remember there is no political solution.”
The other messages emphasized that the group showed up “for free at our own expense” and that they’ll continue to pop up at municipal gatherings until Franklin—a wealthy suburb of Nashville that’s famously home to scores of country musicians and their families—is free of antifa.
Hanson emphasized in her release that she’s never been associated with a neo-Nazi group. She also took a shot at the local TV news reporter Phil Williams—who’s been a thorn in Hanson’s side—by claiming he published a “baseless hit piece” for pointing out that white supremacists escorted Hanson and her husband inside Monday’s forum.
Others involved in Franklin politics quickly denounced the Active Club’s presence, including Moore and State Rep. Sam Whitson, but Hanson never did. In a News Channel 5 report, Williams said that masked neo-Nazis told reporters on Monday that they were “just here to protect Gabrielle.”
One of the men working as security detail reportedly identified himself as Sean Kauffmann, who was described by the Stop Antisemitism watchdog group as being a “disturbed neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier with a documented history of violence and a massive cache of firearms.” He was reportedly spotted doing a Nazi salute outside a drag show in Cookeville, Tennessee, earlier this year.
Hanson’s beef with Williams escalated last week. The reporter’s station was the first to reveal on Sept. 27 that Hanson’s husband once rocked an American flag Speedo—and nothing else, save for a gold chain, glasses, and shoes—to a Pride event in Chicago, with Hanson’s blessing. The report exposed her hypocrisy on LGBTQ issues, as she’d earlier that year used her position as a city alderman to try to stop a local Pride festival because she feared it’d bring out drag queens and scantily clad revelers she deemed a threat to “innocent children.”
Later that day, drama broke out at a mayoral forum held inside a ritzy subdivision’s clubhouse, with Hanson-supporting residents getting into a nasty—and briefly physical—spat with Williams as he tried to enter the event with a cameraman.
One Hanson supporter was captured on video taking a swipe at Williams, which prompted a Franklin cop to scold the woman and say, “Stop touching him or you’re going to jail.” After the event, Hanson didn’t apologize for her supporters’ behavior, instead railing against Williams on Facebook and painting him as an agitator. A recording by a journalist at the event also captured Hanson telling someone, “No Channel 5. They have to leave.”
Even prior to last week’s forum, Hanson routinely put herself in the center of drama. She claimed in May that Audrey Hale, the shooter who gunned down six before being killed by cops at The Covenant School, was in a love triangle with staffers there. Cops immediately shot that rumor down as false, but Hanson has still insisted her sources know the truth.
Hanson has also been skewered for downplaying lynching and for opposing the addition of “racial terror” markers in Franklin. She was also criticized for bizarrely threatening to retaliate against the local airport for supporting a Juneteenth festival, and it was revealed in September that she was arrested in college for promoting prostitution—charges she claimed publicly amounted to a simple misdemeanor, though Williams confirmed last week that they were actually felony charges.
Whether Hanson’s laundry list of controversies will hurt her at the polls will be known soon, as Franklin’s mayoral election is slated to be held on Oct. 24.