Illinois politician has ties to controversial websites

Before he was the mayoral candidate of Rockford, Michael Kleen contributed to publications like WorldNetDaily

Topics: Southern Poverty Law Center, Immigration, Illinois, Rockford, Michael Kleen,

Illinois politician has ties to controversial websitesA supporter of Arizona's "show me your papers" immigration law demonstrates in front of the Supreme Court. (Credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)
This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Michael Kleen, the Republican candidate for mayor of Rockford, Ill., is running on an innocuous “safer streets” platform, pledging “appreciation for commonsense and moderation” on a campaign website that sparkles with sweet reason, offering a profile of a trustworthy, public-spirited candidate.

But Hatewatch has discovered that there’s more to Kleen than the sanitized information his campaign offers. The citizens of Rockford — the third largest city in Illinois, with a population that is 20% African-American and 16% Latino — may not realize that Kleen has published his very controversial views on immigration, secession and education on hate-oriented sites such as VDARE.com and WorldNetDaily.com. He also participated in several interviews on The Voice of Reason Radio Network, a mouthpiece for the white nationalist movement that went offline last August.

Kleen, 31, owns a desktop publishing business called Black Oak Media. He’s written fiction and nonfiction books, specializing in tales of the supernatural and Illinois historical lore. With his master’s degree in American history, he’s also dabbled in opinion posts and, he says, his interests are becoming increasingly political. After losing a race for the Winnebago county board last year — he did get 43% of the vote — Kleen became the Republican candidate for mayor of Rockford, a city with 153,00 residents.

His posts on VDARE have blasted multicultural education and a moderate immigration reform bill co-sponsored by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain several years ago. “It would open the floodgates to immigration in the Southwest and give citizenship to millions of Mexican nationalists who … have no love for their adopted country and who seek the eventual cultural and political severance of large swaths of territory,” Kleen wrote in one post.

VDARE.com is an immigrant-bashing hate site that regularly publishes works by white supremacists, anti-Semites and others on the radical right. Peter Brimelow, who created a foundation that funds VDARE.com, also apparently appreciates Kleen’s work—and hoped to make a little money from it. He endorsed one of the candidate’s books a couple of years ago, presented a link to it for site visitors and noted that VDARE.com would get a commission from each book sold.

Kleen, however, says he no longer likes VDARE.com. After Hatewatch asked him about his posts, he replied in an E-mail that his columns “were unfortunately heavily edited by that website to be much more ‘salacious’ than they were originally.”

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As for WorldNetDaily, a conspiracy-oriented “news” venue that once claimed in a six-part series that eating soy causes homosexuality, Kleen says he doesn’t like them any more either. He did warn a few years ago on the site that “Middle America” was getting fed up with the government, and that secession talk is serious business. But he stopped submitting to WND — which is also thick with anti-gay, anti-Muslim and antigovernment conspiracist posts — because it began publishing “birther” claims, Kleen told Hatewatch.

As for his three appearances on the now-defunct, racist Voice of Reason Radio Network, Kleen offered no specific explanation. He does say, “Years ago (perhaps because of youth), I was much more philosophically radical than I am today.”

Actually, Kleen was interviewed on Voice of Reason as recently as two years ago by Tom Sunic, who described Kleen as “a good colleague and good friend.” Sunic is an extreme-right Croatian author and member of the board of directors of American Third Position, a racist political party that aims to deport immigrants and return the U.S. to white rule. Its top leader, California lawyer William Daniel Johnson, once sought to amend the Constitution so as to permanently deport any American with an “ascertainable trace of Negro blood,” along with all other non-white people.

In one interview, Kleen told Sunic he favored privatizing education in the U.S. and added that “only the wealthiest could afford the best education, but that’s the way it should be.” He railed with Sunic against Holocaust education in the schools and agreed that “homogeneous” cultures are best.

Kleen also proudly told Sunic that “Black Oak Presents,” a quarterly online journal he published, included a short story in which the U.S. president was strung up for crimes he’d committed that led to the downfall of the country. Kleen chuckled and said, “Only in ‘Black Oak Presents’ could a story like that be published.” Sunic responded, “Good news indeed.”

Kleen says he saw no reason to include any of these media pursuits on his campaign website or official biography. “My interests in philosophy and history often times lead me into murky waters, but I assure you, there is nothing really controversial here,” he explained by E-mail. “I categorically deny any affiliation with extremist or far right groups.”

Kleen adds, “At no time have I ever made any racist statements in my campaign literature, speeches, writing, or interviews.” And, he says, “I never turn down an opportunity to have my opinions heard, no matter who it is.”

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