It turns out there are consequences to befriending white supremacists. Especially if you’re a public official.
Mayor Dan Clevenger of Marionville, Mo., handed in his resignation letter Tuesday morning after an uproar among residents and in national media over remarks he made about Jewish people shortly after the April 13 shootings outside two Jewish centers near Kansas City.
Clevenger, 59, is an acquaintance of Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., 73, an avowed hater of Jews who has been charged with killing three people in Overland Park in what officials have deemed a “hate crime.”
About 10 years ago, Clevenger had written a letter to the editor of the Aurora Advertiser that said, “I am a friend of [Cross] helping to spread his warnings. The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United States' workforce.”
Questioned about those views by reporters after the recent shootings, Clevenger told the Springfield News-Leader that he had once been heavily influenced by Cross but no longer considered him a friend after the shootings. Clevenger denied being anti-Semitic.
But he also made some cringe-inducing comments about the number of Jewish people holding powerful positions in the country, including, “I don’t think the government is run by Jews. We are still a democracy. Sure there are Jews in government. I mean, Nancy Pelosi, she is a Jew. And she brags about it.” Pelosi isn’t Jewish.
The controversy culminated Monday evening with a town meeting in which several residents condemned Clevenger for his statements, prompting the mayor to resign.
“You are a representative of us,” one man told Clevenger during public comments at the meeting, according to local news coverage of the event. “We’re not a representative of you. What you say, what comes out of your mouth, is what we say.”
A different speaker defended Clevenger. “It hurts me this week, to read in the media, what’s been portrayed about him,” a man said at the meeting. “It hurts me because it isn’t true, and anybody who’s lived here and knows this man knows it isn’t true.”
Marionville — like nearby Aurora, where the shooting suspect lived — is in rural southern Missouri, a cradle of conservatism and home to the occasional radical and malcontent.
Cross had fled to the Ozarks to join a band of supremacists and avoid prosecution in North Carolina in the 1980s; according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Branson, Mo., is home not only to Silver Dollar City but also a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
More recently, it was in nearby Joplin where an Iraq veteran confessed to burning down the only mosque within 50 miles and to attempting to burn down a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2012 and 2013, according to court documents. (Jedediah Stout gave no motive and pleaded not guilty.)
But however conservative the area, there are limits to what residents will accept. The burning of the mosque prompted an outcry and at least $400,000 in donations for a replacement, and the Marionville mayor’s remarks provoked a civic revolt in the spirit of tolerance.
“We must show our neighbors, state, our nation and a global community our true, kind, caring, loving and accepting community,” resident John Horner said at Monday night’s meeting, according to the News-Leader. “We simply cannot tolerate a public official who makes anti-Semitic comments.”
The town’s board then voted 4-1 to start an impeachment process against Clevenger, the News-Leader reported. Clevenger, who couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, told the newspaper he was hurt by the allegations against him.
After news broke of the resignation, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon applauded the town’s residents on Twitter.
MO is a vibrant and diverse state that embraces all faiths & ethnicities. Glad to see Marionville stand up to hateful beliefs — Governor Jay Nixon (@GovJayNixon) April 22, 2014