In Facebook feud, aide to lawmaker says he doesn’t know whether KKK exists

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MADISON – An aide to a state representative claimed in a Facebook post this week he didn’t know the Ku Klux Klan was involved in violent activities and suggested Black Lives Matter was a bigger problem today.

Bill Savage, an aide to Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen of Menomonee Falls, aired his views on Facebook in response to a post by pastor Marty Calderon of God Touch Milwaukee that called for labeling the KKK a terrorist group.

“I wasn’t’ even aware that they existed,” Savage wrote. “I haven’t heard about anything about them Being involved in any of these issues unlike black lives matter that kill police officers.”

The KKK has a long, violent history of lynching black men and planting burning crosses in the yards of the homes of black families. Black Lives Matter was formed in 2013 to fight racism and police brutality and has been at the forefront of the response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

Democratic Sen. LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee said she was taken aback by the comments after a reporter showed them to her.

“I think it’s insulting first of all to say that, but then to equate Black Lives Matter with the KKK — I just don’t understand that,” she said. “Any person of color knows that the KKK exists today because we know people who show tendencies who act like they are members, whether that’s in the Capitol or outside.”

The brief Facebook exchange included Calderon saying he couldn’t believe Savage worked for a state representative and Savage saying “screw you” to Calderon and calling him a “bozo.”

Calderon said he was frustrated with how Savage acted and thought it reflected poorly on Brandtjen. He called Brandtjen about it but said he thought her response was dismissive.

“The conversation I had with the representative was garbage,” Calderon said. “All she kept falling back on was he has the First Amendment to say what he wants.”

But Brandtjen said she thought her discussion with Calderon was good. She said she cannot control everything Savage says but said she told him not to engage in similar conduct in the future.

“I’ve addressed it with Bill and I’m not wading into a Facebook fight between two grown men,” she said.

Savage said he was only asking a question. 

“I simply asked whether the KKK was even in existence, meaning of course in any significant way,” he said by email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Asked if he planned to apologize to Calderon, Savage said in his email, “As far as an apology I’m sure if I ever cross paths with Mr. Calderon hopefully we will shake hands and call it a misunderstanding. It’s only a Facebook exchange.”

The dispute between the two started when Calderon wrote that the KKK should be dubbed a terrorist organization and Savage weighed in by saying he didn’t know the notorious group existed and raising concerns about Black Lives Matter.

Calderon told Savage that the KKK had killed many people.

“You’d think I would have heard about those killings,” Savage responded. “The media doesn’t miss many chances to hurl some racially divisive stuff. When were these killings? I was out last week.”

Calderon told him to read some history, adding he was “SMH” — internet lingo for “shaking my head” — at the notion that Savage worked for a lawmaker.

“Shake your freaking head bozo!!!” Savage wrote, adding that the most recent KKK killing he could find was in 1981.

Calderon said it didn’t matter when the last murder was because the KKK is “a hateful organization.”

Savage responded: “Sorry pal. you want to shake your head at me for asking a question then screw you.”

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.

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