Michigan Democratic Party chair calls Howell the “Home of the KKK”; now he owes a big apology

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Brandon Dillon, the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, owes a huge apology to Howell. A huge, enormous, public apology.

In a tweet he sent back in August, he referred to Howell as the “Home of the Michigan KKK.” That’s a myth that’s been floating around for decades, and there’s absolutely no truth to it. Howell is not the home of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan, and it’s never been the home of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan.

It’s beyond irresponsible and offensive that Dillon would repeat that lie, and he owes a huge apology to Howell for saying it.

Dillon is a former state representative who has served as the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party since 2015. You would think that someone in his position would have done at least a little research before sending out an irresponsible and totally false tweet like that.

For the record, Mr. Dillon, Howell is not the home of the KKK, and it never has been. The former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan once lived in Cohoctah Township – which is not Howell – but he’s been dead for 25 years now. There’s nobody in Cohoctah holding Klan rallies anymore, and there hasn’t been anyone doing it for 25 years.

And there’s never been anyone from Howell who held Klan rallies. Ever.

There is no KKK in Howell, Mr. Dillon. This is not the “Home of the KKK.” There’s no Klan in Howell, and you should be ashamed of yourself for saying that there is.

Dillon sent his tweet on Aug. 17 in response to Lena Epstein, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who was appearing at a pro-President Trump rally in Howell. Dillon wrote:

“Your lame excuse might be plausible if you didn’t just host a Trump rally in Howell (home of MI KKK) and weren’t mugging it up w/ Ted Nugent.”

The head of the Michigan Democratic Party just called Howell the “Home of the KKK.” Unbelievable.

And what in the world was he hoping to gain politically by smearing Howell like this? The chair of the Michigan Democratic Party just told everyone that their town is the “Home of the KKK.” What was he thinking?

And why would he criticize Lena Epstein – or anyone, for that matter – for going to Howell? What’s wrong with spending time in Howell, Mr. Dillon?

Brandon Dillon isn’t alone in mistakenly thinking that there’s a KKK chapter in Howell, but he’s one of the only public officials I can ever remember who was irresponsible enough to actually say it. And since he’s apparently in need of a history lesson, here are the facts:

• Robert Miles, the former Grand Dragon of the Michigan KKK, used to hold cross-burnings and Klan rallies at his farm in Cohoctah Township (which, again, is NOT Howell). Most, if not all, of the people who attended these rallies were from outside Livingston County.

For the post I recently wrote about this, click here.

• Miles died in 1992, and since then, nobody else in Livingston County has been holding Klan rallies on their property.

• You don’t have to take my word for it that there isn’t a Klan in Howell – the Southern Poverty Law Center confirms it. The SPLC, which tracks hate groups around the country, reports that there are 28 hate groups in Michigan – but none in Livingston County.

• The SPLC says that there are four active Ku Klux Klan chapters in Michigan – one in Battle Creek, one in Trenton and two in Alpena. None in Howell and none in Livingston County. (And it’s curious that nobody thinks of Alpena, Trenton or Battle Creek as being hotbeds of Klan activity – only Howell.) You can check out the SPLS’s map of Klan activity in Michigan by clicking here.

• Danny Welch, the director of Klanwatch (the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klan monitoring group), was crystal clear when somebody asked him about Howell’s KKK reputation: “As far as we’re concerned, Howell’s only claim to fame is Robert Miles. With Miles gone, I certainly don’t think of Howell as a nerve center for Klan activity anymore.”

Got that, Mr. Dillon? With Miles gone, I certainly don’t think of Howell as a nerve center for Klan activity anymore.

I hope that Brandon Dillon realizes that this isn’t the kind of claim you can throw around in such haphazard fashion. You don’t go around claiming that a town is the “Home of the Ku Klux Klan” without having at least a little evidence that it’s true.

In this case, ALL of the evidence says that it’s false. It’s mind-boggling that the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party would be so careless and irresponsible with the facts. He casually smeared Howell’s reputation with a single tweet, and didn’t seem to think twice about it.

There is no Klan in Howell, and there never has been. Howell is not the home of the KKK – not now, not ever.

I’m sending this blog post to Brandon Dillon, and I’m going to ask him to make a public apology to Howell. He owes it to everyone there.

I encourage the Livingston County Democratic Party to do the same. They need to encourage their state party chairman to apologize to Howell, and I would also encourage them to invite Dillon to visit Howell to see for himself what a warm, welcoming community it really is.

I encourage State Rep. Hank Vaupel and State Sen. Joe Hune, who represent Howell in Lansing, to do the same. Encourage Dillon to apologize, and invite him to town.

I encourage the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce and the Howell City Council to do likewise.

And anyone else from Howell who wants to let Dillon know their feelings is welcome to do the same.
His e-mail is midemparty@michigandems.com.

I’m also going to be sending this information to media folks around the state, in the hopes that they’ll shine a light on Dillon’s irresponsible behavior – and that they’ll help clear up any misconceptions that still exist about Howell.

About Buddy Moorehouse 103 Articles

Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

6 Comments

  1. Sorry and sad as it it..but at one time this was very true. No apologies for the truth…sorry your feelings are hurt.

  2. It’s a tough situation that once you get that moniker (klan town) it’s hard to shake. Over twenty years ago In south central Los Angeles I worked community service in a predominate black neighborhood. I was surprised how many knew of the Howell thing. It’s a serious conversation but I do believe there are positives ways to spin it and those conversations are very rewarding. Regarding Brandon Dillion’s comments, as someone (me) who mostly votes with the Dems I was flabbergasted by comments (various blogs) from liberal types regarding the Howell Trump rally at Block Brewery. In all fairness and somewhat important to this story, Charlottesville (klan town) had just happened. The Trump gathering in Howell was 2 days later, it made it convenient for Brandon Dillion and others to retell klan folklore.

  3. Unfortunately, right or wrong, many people do see Howell as a place where racism is real. At age 18 I remember speaking to a nice man who was African American. We were hitting it off, but as soon as I told him I was from Howell he turned and walked away. I never saw him again. A former boss of mine who is also African American told me there is a saying among the black community she grew up in “Don’t be in Howell after the sun goes down”. So, whether we like it or not, Howell does have a reputation of racial discrimination. I’ve personally come across more intolerance than tolerance, but its been quiet and subtle, not carried out through rallies but more in private conversation. Growing up in Howell the “N” word was thrown around without thought by friends and parents. I never agreed and still do not. Perhaps things are changing, and maybe Howell isn’t a hotbed for klan activity, but it still has a LONG way to go before it is culturally or racially diverse.

  4. The Livingston Diversity Council thanks you for this and your continued dedication to our wonderful community. We will be making contact with his office today!

  5. You are right–here we go again. Sigh. The Howell Area Chamber of Commerce will be sending an email. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

What do you think?