Dem LG candidate Mandela Barnes called GOP incumbent Rebecca Kleefisch a liar for suggesting without proof that he knelt during the national anthem at the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair.
Kleefisch originally raised the allegation on Twitter Sept. 6 that Wisconsin “neighbors” told her Barnes had knelt for the national anthem. During an appearance in Glendale yesterday, Kleefisch said she was told by others that Barnes knelt during the playing of the anthem at the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair last month.
But Kleefisch said she didn’t see it and didn’t say who had, according to media reports.
Barnes, a former state lawmaker and African-American, charged Kleefisch, who is white, is trying to stir up racial tensions with the allegation as part of a desperate move to win the campaign.
“If they can stir up racial tension to try to win this race, they’re going to do it,” Barnes said in a phone interview with WisPolitics.com. “It’s a shame if they’re going in this direction. But it’s unfortunately what happened.”
Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign referred questions to the state GOP, which also didn’t offer any proof to back up Kleefisch’s claim. Instead, the party released video of Barnes being asked about the kneeling allegation and saying he wasn’t even at the State Fair. The party suggested Barnes can’t be trusted because of the discrepancy.
Barnes said the video was shot by a GOP tracker who caught him off guard with the question and he misspoke in giving his answer.
“Barnes has shown time and again that he supports these disgraceful protests of our flag — he owes families everywhere an explanation,” said state GOP spokesman Alex Zimmerman.
Neither the state GOP nor Walker’s campaign responded to requests for proof to support Kleefisch’s assertion.
Dem state Rep. Daniel Riemer, who was at the opening ceremony for the state Fair, confirmed Barnes was at the event. Riemer said while he didn’t watch Barnes the entire time, he didn’t see him do anything like kneel during the anthem.
Barnes said he was particularly incensed because of the racial undertones of Kleefisch’s allegations.
“That’s like me saying I saw her buying a tiki torch at Home Depot,” Barnes said.
Kleefisch fired back on Twitter: “But here’s the thing: the National Anthem is not like tiki torches. It’s a big deal that matters. (Just like abortions are not like tonsillectomies.)”
The last line of Kleefisch’s tweet references an interview Dem guv candidate Tony Evers did with the Weekly Standard in which he called for Medicaid funds to be available for abortions, saying “restricting it because of a certain procedure, whether it’s a tonsillectomy or any other procedure, seems to me a foolhardy thing to do.”