The list of names was released by the hacktivist group Anonymous on Monday as part of its promise to unmask the KKK. The list also names four other mayors and four U.S. Senators. The mayor of Ocala, Florida, Kent Guinn, and Mayor Madeline Rogero, of Knoxville, Tennessee, have also denied any connection to the KKK.
Gray, a 62-year-old Democrat who has been his city’s mayor since 2010, took to social media to deny the allegation, saying on Twitter, “This allegation from the group Anonymous is false, insulting and ridiculous. I have never had any relationship of any kind with the KKK.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Says He Is ‘Opposed to Everything the KKK Stands For’
Gray said in his tweet, “I am opposed to everything the KKK stands for. I have no idea where this information came from, but wherever it came from, it is wrong.”
A spokeswoman for Gray’s office, Brenna Angel, told the Lexington Herald-Leader they are “at a total loss,” at how the mayor’s name ended up on the list.
Anonymous said in its release, the alleged KKK-tied politicians are called, “abhorrent. Criminal. You are more than extremists. You are more than a hate group. You operate much more like terrorists and you should be recognized as such.” The group released names and information about the politicians, but not addresses, saying they did not want anyone to try to harm those named.
The list of names does not provide any evidence for how the group determined the politicians are tied to the KKK.
The hackers claim Gray is linked to the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The group has a presence in Kentucky, according to its website.
“The United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is a fraternal, Christian, pro-White organization that is here to help stop the spread of illegal immigrants not only around the nation, but in Kentucky. We are a non-violent group that is here to raise awareness to local counties, cities, and towns, and stand up for White, Christian Kentuckians,” the website says.
2. Several Lexington Residents Have Come to His Defense
Several Lexington residents have come to Gray’s defense in the comments of his Facebook post denying the Anonymous claim.
“I’ve known Mayor Gray and his family all of my life. In fact, I know him as “Jimmy”. This is absolutely the most ridiculous accusation and points out the cleansing that needs to occur in politics. I fear good people will avoid these positions due to people like this anonymous poster,” Rita Riherd says.
“Such an allegation could not be further from the truth. Jim Gray stand for all those things that the KKK traditionaly opposes,” Joe Terry writes.
“I have known Jim since I have been in Lexington, worked with him on numerous occasions, and consider him a good friend. I have seen his tireless work for equality for all of Lexington’s citizens no matter of color orientation or background or ethnicity. I say this story is BS and put into the media to distract from the accomplishments this man has made. I am Proud to stand with Mayor Jim Gray,” writes Jim Alexander.
Others have remained skeptical or have attacked those defending Gray.
“Everyone thought the BTK killer was a stand up guy in the community also. There is a reason they wear hoods,” Barry Knight wrote.
But the majority of the posts are in defense of Gray.
3. He Revealed in 2005 That He Is Gay
Gray came out as gay in 2005 while running for the seat of vice mayor in Lexington. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader he came out because he was worried about a “whisper campaign” about his private life during his failed 2002 bid for mayor. It was not raised as an issue during his 2006 campaign for the vice mayoral seat, which he won.
In 2010, he became the first openly gay mayor of Lexington. The city was at the time the third largest in the United States with a gay mayor, according to the Herald-Leader.
“The election was about competence and business experience and pocketbook issues,” Gray told the newspaper in 2010. “I think the larger message in an economic sense is that Lexington is an open, welcoming and inclusive place. That’s what encourages economic growth and prosperity.”
Gray was re-elected to a second four-year term as Lexington’s mayor in 2014.
4. He Was Raised in Glasgow, Kentucky, & Graduated From Vanderbilt University
Gray was born and raised in Glasgow, Kentucky, about 130 miles away from Lexington. He was the oldest of six children.
According to the biography on his website, Gray graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1996.
5. He Previously Ran His Family’s Construction Company
Before becoming Lexington’s mayor, Gray was the chairman and CEO of his family’s company, Gray Construction, according to the city’s website.
The international design-build firm is one of the 20 largest in the country, according to its website.