Remember good ole boy David Brown, of Darien, CT? The Republican running to retain his seat on the School Board, who saw fit to flash the "white power" hand signal for the entirety of his 30-second closing statement at a candidates' forum? When called out on it by a number of people, including students at the high school's Black Student Union, Democrats running for office in Darien, and a Democratic state senator, Darien's GOP cried foul, closed ranks around him, going on the offensive accusing the Democrats of dirty politics.
Then Darien's League of Women Voters got involved (they'd hosted and moderated the candidates' forum,) issuing a letter in full support of Brown and demanding an apology that is "permanent and easily searchable on the internet" from the Democrats who'd posted screenshots asking Brown to explain why he'd made that particular hand gesture. The letter itself was absurd and outrageous, and guess what? It turns out to have been unauthorized.
That's right, kids, the three women who sent that letter on Darien LWV letterhead — using such language as "condemn," "unconscionable," "offensive," "breach of policy" to refer not to Brown's white supremacist signaling, but to the Democrats' calling it out — did not have the authority to send the letter, nor make the demands they made. After more than two weeks, the president of the Connecticut League of Women Voters issued the following statement on Facebook:
Okay, but define "withdrawn." The letter continues to be displayed on all the Darien Republican social media sites. This statement from the state chapter president of the LWV is nowhere to be found. It's of course, apparently too much to ask that they take down the unauthorized, incendiary, unreasonable, clearly partisan letter written by the Darien LWV members. I know, because I have asked on the pages from which they haven't banned me.
The list of people to whom I tried to speak about this is considerable:
- David Brown (he hung up on me upon hearing my name and didn't answer my next three attempts,
- the three signatories of the unauthorized letter (I left multiple messages with each,)
- Darien H.S. Black Student Union, who'd issued the most poignant and powerful responses to Brown's behavior (I messaged their IG page,)
- Democratic Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (who'd removed a tweet about Brown's hand signal,) and
- anyone at National League of Women Voters (whom I emailed twice and left multiple voicemails.)
Finally, I was made aware that Laura Smits, who issued the above statement announcing the withdrawal of the Darien LWV letter, was willing to talk to me. After I left several messages, she called me back and was extremely generous with her time, speaking with me for a good 45 minutes about the situation. She reiterated that the initial letter was unauthorized, and never presented to the board for approval, and that had it been presented, it would never have been approved nor sent.
I asked her how they had access to LWV letterhead, and she explained that all three signatories are members of the board. One, in fact, is president of the Darien chapter. Smits says the League has never had this sort of issue come up before this year, and that they've never even had to be in the position of enforcing their video policy (which she acknowledges is outdated and needs to be revised - in fact, she said she realizes the video policy might be viewed as "positively quaint" by today's standards.) Smits understands it's barely enforceable, given how ubiquitous video cameras are.
The question I kept asking, though, is what exactly part of the video policy was breached? I told her I'd obtained a copy of the policy, and there was nothing any of the candidates did to violate the policy, as far as I could tell. She said no part of it was breached, which is one of the reasons the letter would never have made it past the full board in the first place. David Bayne, to whom the letter was addressed, had nothing for which to apologize, Smits said. Frankly, neither do the DTC, the Democratic candidates, Sen. Duff, or anyone else from whom the letter writers and the RTC were demanding public self-flagellation.
I suggested that when they update their policy, they consider including a prohibition against hate speech and signals. I asked if there would be consequences, or actions taken about the three signatories of the unauthorized letter, and she said it was under discussion right now. She felt it very unfortunate that the LWV became the story at all.
I assured her that while the three women inserted themselves and the Darien LWV into the story, they were by no means THE story. They sure put their thumbs on the scale for David Brown and the Republicans. After all - the unauthorized letter is still up on the RTC's page, able to be weaponized against the Democrats. The statement of withdrawal is nowhere to be found, at least on their social media pages, because god forbid they should act responsibly or ethically. And the Darien Democrats deleted their tweets about Brown's "white power" gesture, so fewer of their voters even are aware of it. Somehow, the RTC has more weapons and manage to still play the victim. The DTC has more integrity and still manages to get attacked.
Make no mistake, though. The story is that a man who used the hand-signal for "white power" throughout his entire closing statement is running for School Board in Darien, CT. He refuses to explain or apologize for the gesture. Darien's high school had homophobic and anti-semitic graffiti in their bathrooms last month. Last week, a swastika was found on a bathroom wall in a Darien middle school.
Don't forget to vote on Tuesday.