Wannabe Tennessee Mayor Smiles With Neo-Nazi in Photo on Social Media

Office of Alderman Gabrielle Hanson
Office of Alderman Gabrielle Hanson

A far-right conspiracy theorist vying to be mayor of Franklin, Tennessee was pictured grinning next to an avowed neo-Nazi in a photo shared on the social media app Telegram on Wednesday.

Gabrielle Hanson, an alderman for the city, has weathered near-constant controversy along the campaign trail, and has most recently drawn criticism for her ties to the Tennessee Active Club, which was labeled “a part of a national network of white power hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (After the SPLC published a report on the group in June, one member reportedly took to Telegram to proclaim: “I’m not a cuckservative, I’m an actual literal Nazi.”)

Last week, after about a dozen members of the club accompanied Hanson to a mayoral forum, saying they were there to make “sure everything goes well,” she defended their attendance.

“I’m not going to denounce anybody their right to be whatever it is they want to be—whether I agree with what they do in their personal life or not,” she said at a city council meeting.

“We don’t discriminate in this community against anyone.”

She also warned the council that “you reap what you sow,” charging them with having “planted seeds for years and years against our citizens and they’re coming to harvest.”

“Is it your mission to divide our city?” one of her colleagues on the council later asked her. “Because you're doing a bang up job of it right now dividing our community.”

Sean Kauffmann, the Tennessee Active Club’s leader, was one of the members present at the forum. The photo shared Wednesday, first reported by Nashville’s NewsChannel 5, shows Hanson and Kauffman sitting side by side. He appears to be wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Reject Poison, Embrace Struggle,” a slogan commonly associated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front.

The image was shared on Telegram by the right-wing network Appalachian Archives. “Stay Tuned,” the network teased alongside the picture.

Several hours later, a 20-minute interview clip was posted to the channel. Despite the Archives labeling it a conversation between Kauffmann and Hanson, however, the neo-Nazi was interviewed not by the candidate, but by another woman who identified herself as Valerie Baldes, a proactive Hanson supporter.

It was not immediately clear why Hanson did not conduct the interview. She has not responded to NewsChannel 5’s repeated requests for comment.

In a caption, the channel described the clip as a chance to let Kauffman “speak about his organizations views in an unbiased setting, no doubt Dishonest and Profiteering Reporters and Journalists will use this as Leverage against Tennessee Active Club and Gabrielle Hanson for simply Interacting with one another in a Neutral and Professional setting.”

The circuitous conversation functioned as a platform to allow Kauffmann to riff and rant about the LGBTQ+ community, journalists, and anti-fascists, railing against them “anarcho-communists” who are “basically the foot soldiers of the Judeo-capitalist—and the takeover that’s happening in America.”

“They want to bring you diversity, the BLM, the antifa, riots, they want robbery and murder and rape to come to your cities,” he insists. “That’s what they’re facilitating anarchy across America.”

Early in the interview, when Baldes asks him why he thought he and his group had been labeled Nazis, Kauffmann replies, “Well, this one is tough, you know, because of the swastikas and stuff, are pretty much the reason.”

The election for Franklin’s mayor will be held on Oct. 24, according to the city.

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