Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who had offered no proof to back up her allegation, Tuesday apologized for accusing Dem rival Mandela Barnes of kneeling during the national anthem.

Kleefisch, who is white, first tweeted the allegation earlier this month and then repeated it yesterday, saying she had been told by others Barnes, who is African-American, knelt during the anthem. She added Monday she was told he did so during the playing of the anthem during the opening of the State Fair, a charge Barnes strongly denied. Others who saw him during the ceremony said they didn’t see him kneel.

During an appearance on WTMJ-AM Tuesday , Kleefisch said she was looking at the flag during the anthem at the fair opening, not Barnes.

“I was told later that he kneeled briefly, and I repeated what someone else told me, and he has said that he didn’t do it and I have to believe him and I have to apologize for repeating something I was told,” Kleefisch said.

Barnes said in phone interview Tuesday that Kleefisch hadn’t reached out to him directly to apologize. He suggested Kleefisch wasn’t sorry about making the claim in the first place. Instead, he said Kleefisch was sorry for the backlash she faced.

Barnes said he’s “done with” Kleefisch making the allegation, but would still like to debate her about larger issues in the race.

“It’s just a very dangerous game to play, to start making up stuff to say whatever you want to say,” Barnes said. “We’re not in a great place.”

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