NEW YORK (AP) — Moms for Liberty says it has removed two Kentucky chapter chairs from leadership positions after the women posed in photos with members of the far-right group the Proud Boys, one of several controversies that the conservative “parental rights” nonprofit has fended off in its rise to national prominence in public education.
The two women, who had led local chapters in Boone and Campbell counties near the Ohio border, appeared in photos with several men dressed in yellow and black Proud Boys clothing at a Nov. 4 rally in Frankfort, the Kentucky capital. The photos, posted on Facebook by another attendee, show the women smiling in Moms for Liberty clothing, as one helps to hold up a flag that reads, “Appalachian Proud Boys Kentucky.”
The former chapter chairs were removed because they “demonstrated a lack of judgement and misalignment with our core values,” the national Moms for Liberty organization posted Tuesday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“Moms for Liberty is in no way affiliated with the Proud Boys and does not condone involvement with the organization. We repudiate hate and violence,” the group continued, adding that it wouldn’t allow “the actions of a few” to define the rest of its members.
Since its founding in 2021, Moms for Liberty has gained popularity and generated forceful backlash for its efforts to elect right-wing school board candidates and to target references to race and LGBTQ+ identity in classrooms around the United States.
The group is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year, an Indiana chapter of the group apologized and condemned Adolf Hitler after it was criticized for using a quote attributed to the Nazi leader in its inaugural newsletter.
In June, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated Moms for Liberty as an anti-government extremist group, arguing it uses parents’ rights as a vehicle to attack public education and make schools less welcoming for minority and LGBTQ+ students. Moms for Liberty has disputed the label, saying the group’s efforts to fund and endorse school board races show it is not anti-government.
Voters opted for liberal and moderate candidates over conservative contenders in many high-profile school board races on Election Day last week. Moms for Liberty said about 40% of its endorsed candidates won.
The SPLC describes the Proud Boys as a hate group for its promotion of white nationalist ideas, involvement in violence and the role that some of its members played in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
About 60 Proud Boys members have been charged with federal crimes related to the assault, which was intended to halt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Republican President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
More than half of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials in Washington In May, a jury convicted former Proud Boys national leader Enrique Tarrio and three lieutenants of seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors said was a plot to keep Trump in the White House after his defeat. Tarrio was sentenced to 22 years behind bars, the longest prison term for a Jan. 6 case.
In the photos posted on Facebook, the former Boone County Moms for Liberty chair joins several others flashing the “OK” sign with their hands. The Anti-Defamation League says that sign is sometimes used to symbolize white supremacist beliefs or the Three Percenter movement, a wing of the anti-government extremist militia movement.
Moms for Liberty said it would “follow our current policies and procedures” in selecting new chapter leaders. It did not respond to an inquiry about whether the two former leaders would be removed from the organization or allowed to stay on as rank-and-file members. Their names and contact information were removed from chapter webpages.
The former Campbell County chair declined comment in a phone call with The Associated Press, and the former Boone County chair didn’t respond to an emailed query.
Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland, contributed to this report.
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