The mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, is strongly denying any connection to the Ku Klux Klan after her name was included in a list of politicians allegedly connected to the racist hate group.
Mayor Madeline Rogero said in a statement, “I’m not even sure this is worth responding to, but for the record: There is a list circulating online purporting to ‘out’ elected officials as members of the KKK. For reasons unfathomable to me or anyone who knows me, my name is on the list. Given my background, my interracial family, my public record and my personal beliefs, this would be hilarious except that it is probably being seen by a lot of people who have no idea who I am.”
Rogero, a 63-year-old Democrat, has been Knoxville’s mayor since 2011.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Called the List of Names ‘Irresponsible’ & ‘Slanderous’
Rogero said it is “ridiculous” for her name to be on the list. She said in a statement on her Facebook page:
So, just to be clear, for anyone who doesn’t know me: Don’t be ridiculous. I began my political career working for the rights of farm workers with Cesar Chavez. I have spent decades working for causes of social justice and equality. As Mayor, I have pushed for diversity in our workforce and outreach to and inclusion of people of all backgrounds in our community. In concert with President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program, I began the Save Our Sons initiative to increase opportunities and reduce violence-related deaths among boys and young men of color. I have advocated publicly for LGBT civil rights, and I was the only mayor in Tennessee to sign onto the mayors’ amicus brief for the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court’s marriage equality case. In short, I don’t think the KKK would want anything to do with me.
I strongly request that anyone associated with the creation and dissemination of this false and defamatory accusation retract it immediately. It is irresponsible and slanderous. (Although, on a positive note, I do appreciate that they are using a picture of me from 12 years ago. Very flattering!)
She later replied to a person who commented, saying, ” I am not now and never have been a member of any KKK group.”
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.
Anonymous says in the list that Rogero is connected to the Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. According to the Ku Klos Knights’ website, they are a Tennessee group. They say on the website, “If you are for a pure Christian America – if you are against illegal immigration – if you are against race mixing – if you are opposed to Muslim extremists infiltrating our country – if you believe that every American has the right to own and bear arms – if you are a true patriot – then join our Klan today!”
2. She Received Comments in Her Defense From Several Supporters on Her Facebook Page
Several supporters commented on Rogero’s Facebook post to show their support and defend the Knoxville mayor.
“Thank you for your quick and thorough response. Anyone who knows you or the city of Knoxville would know that your name on the list is a farce, but as you said, there are plenty of people who don’t know you who have seen it. And it calls into question the veracity of the entire list,” Megan Rose Stromer posted.
“You are the best Madeline and every where I see this list posted I’m standing with you. It’s the most bizarre accusation to anyone that knows you and your family none the less your work.
Keep on keeping on, Knoxville knows you,” Mary Rodio said.
“On the plus side, anyone who wasn’t familiar with your amazing work before, will be now,” Shannon Sharon posted.
3. She Was Selected to Serve on a Task Force to Advise President Obama on Climate Preparedness
Rogero was elected as Knoxville’s mayor in 2011 and recently won re-election.
During her time as mayor, she was chosen as one of 26 governmental leaders to advise President Barack Obama on climate preparedness and resilience-building efforts, according to a press release on the city’s website.
“It is truly an honor to be selected for the Climate Preparedness and Resilience Task Force,” Rogero said in a statement at the time. “Climate change is a real threat to our future, but working with government leaders across the country on solutions and sharing ideas with the Obama Administration on how to better sustain our communities can help to lessen the threat. The City of Knoxville has long been committed to clean energy and sustainability, and we welcome the opportunity to be a leader on this issue.”
4. She Grew Up in Florida & Moved to Tennessee to Get Her Master’s Degree
Rovero was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and lived in several states before eventually settling in Knoxville while attending graduate school at the University of Tennessee, according to her biography on the city’s website.
She has an undergraduate degree in political science from Furman University in South Carolina. She then graduated from the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, writing her thesis in 1987 titled, “A Proposal to Foster Civic Leadership and Participation in Knoxville.”
She was elected to the Knox County Commission in 1990 and 1994. After a failed bid for mayor in 2003, she was appointed as the director of community development by her opponent, Bill Haslam. She was eventually elected as mayor in 2011 after Haslam went on to become the governor of Tennessee.
Rogero, who is of Italian and Spanish descent, was previously a labor organizer in Ohio, California and Tennessee. She is family oriented and religious.
“I am Catholic,” she told the Knoxville News Sentinel in 2011. “I was raised a Catholic. My family is very active in the Catholic church.”
5. She Is Married & Has 5 Children
Rogero is married to Gene Monaco, and lives in south Knoxville, where she and her husband, “enjoy music, beekeeping, kayaking, and the beauty of East Tennessee,” according to her biography.
Monaco and Rogero married in 2001, after they met through a youth task force Monaco was leading.
She has five grown children and seven grandchildren. Rogero was previously married to Mark Pitt.