By Steve Schuster and Ethan Duran
Wisconsin’s conservative Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly on Tuesday appeared alongside Pastor Matthew Trewhella during a speech in Wilson, Wis., on a Facebook-live stream.
Trewhella previously called killing doctors who perform abortions “justifiable homicide,” and in 2020 compared COVID-19 mask mandates to the holocaust.
“I don’t think Dan Kelly would be a good judge for 99 reasons. Now you can add one more to the list,” said Wisconsin Rep. Daniel Riemer during an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal Tuesday.
Riemer who describes himself as an American Jewish lawmaker said, “It’s not only an absurd comparison, it’s also a hurtful comparison. If you can’t tell the difference between a mask mandate and systemic murder of 6 million Jews, you’re not fit to be a jurist.”
Riemer said speaking from his own campaigning experience, he doesn’t understand how Kelly couldn’t have known about Trewhella’s extreme views since it’s been widely reported by the media.
“If Kelly continues to campaign with Trewhella … knowing that Trewhella is stumping for Kelly … Kelly is basically saying me and my campaign are affiliated with this person and have no objection to the views they have expressed,” Riemer said.
“If this is Kelly’s judgment for who is stumping for him, what kind of judgement will have have when he hires a law clerk or makes a decision on a case,” asked Riemer who noted that “if Kelly is running for a position on the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, he ought to be smart and savvy enough to know he can’t just affiliate himself with someone like Trewhella.”
Wisconsin Rep. Lisa Subeck agreed.
“Dan Kelly’s extreme views are out of touch with Wisconsin. It comes as no surprise that he would associate with an anti-abortion extremist like Matt Trewhella who has a history of making anti-Semitic and inflammatory remarks. This is just one more reason Wisconsin cannot afford to put Dan Kelly on our Supreme Court,” said Subeck in an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal Tuesday.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet said that “As has been widely reported, my Jewish colleague and I have been targeted for our faith and ethnicity while serving on this bench. Standing alongside a violent hatemonger is just one more reason Dan Kelly is unqualified to sit on any court, let alone the state’s highest court.”
Back in 2020, it was reported that two Wisconsin Supreme Court justices have received a torrent of misogynistic and anti-Semitic messages in the days after they denounced — and then voted to reject — an attempt by US President Donald Trump’s lawyers to invalidate hundreds of thousands of votes in their state.
Milwaukee Common Council Member Jonathan Brostoff who formerly served on the Wisconsin Legislature said he is outraged by Kelly’s judgement.
“Let me get this right, Dan Kelly isn’t just hanging out with an anti-Semitic arsonist, he’s using him on the campaign trail? Dan this is who you choose to represent you? Disgusting, disgraceful and unacceptable. What a schmuck,” Brostoff said during an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal.
According to a confidential FBI document, Trewhella who is a convicted arsonist, was one of a half dozen anti-abortion activists who were investigated by federal agents as possible conspirators in a campaign of violence against abortion clinics, Newsweek reported back in the 1990s.
Last week, Trewhella spoke for an hour before Kelly appeared in a video conference at the Cavalry Assembly of God in Wilson, Wis. The event was streamed by the Wisconsin chapter of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty, which is described as “Christian Patriots dedicated to restoring our Constitutional Republic and defending liberty.”
During a Brookfield city meeting in 2020, Trewhella said “Tyranny is built plank by plank. The Jews didn’t one day get called to the edge of the railroad and be told to get on the boxcars. There were a thousand little acts infringing on their liberty prior to that.”
The Milwaukee Jewish Federation, a non-profit supporting the Jewish community in southeastern Wisconsin, issued a statement in 2021 due to the recognized increase in frequent Holocaust comparisons being made in public discourse, as well as social media and news media. The statement reads in part:
“Invoking Nazi imagery and rhetoric to express a position on public health protocols and other current issues that do not involve the systematic genocide of an entire people, trivializes the brutal murders of the six million Jews and five million other human beings. It harms the Jewish community and others by dishonoring the memories of family and loved ones who were killed, as well as needlessly stirring up painful experiences of Holocaust survivors and their descendants.”
According to the Federation’s website, a part of their mission is what is referred to as “tikkun olam,” improving and repairing the world, this includes holocaust education initiatives.
An ADL staff member said anti-Semitic language was a “canary in the coal mine” for rising hate in communities.
“Antisemitism always starts with the Jews, but never ends with the Jews,” the ADL staff member said.
Newly released supplemental data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that reported hate crime incidents in 2021 rose to 10,840 incidents, the highest level recorded in more than two decades.
According to the FBI, the number of reported single-bias anti-Jewish hate crimes rose from 683 in 2020 to 817 in 2021, and comprised a little more than half of all religion-based hate crimes in 2021, consistent with data reported in prior years. There were also 109 antisemitic assaults reported, a 16 percent increase from 2020.
“Antisemitism is the canary in the coal mine; when it increases, all hate increases in society. The increase in antisemitism also represents the disintegration of our democratic values and institutions,” the ADL staff member added.
Left-leaning Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz who is running against Kelly said she was shocked yet not surprised Kelly shared a stage with Trewhella.
“You may have heard me say Dan Kelly is an extremist. Well, although it’s shocking that he would share the stage with this man, it’s not surprising. Dan Kelly’s radical views defending the 1849 abortion ban, and generally stopping women from controlling their own bodies, are well-documented. And his support for disrespecting democracy and overturning elections is well-documented. We can’t let him anywhere close to our Supreme Court,” Protasiewicz said in a statement.
The Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to Kelly personally as well as his campaign requesting comments and neither Kelly nor his campaign responded.
Mercy Seat Christian Church, a Brookfield church where Trewhella gives sermons, did not respond to a voicemail from the Wisconsin Law Journal as of publication.