Democratic state Rep. Nicole Klein Knight (D-Manchester), an outspoken progressive in the New Hampshire House, has received an official “Letter of Caution” from leadership over her use of the “n-word” during a State House confrontation.
“The Co-Chairs of the Speaker’s Advisory Group considered the issue and have recommended to me that a letter of caution be sent to you regarding the matter,” Speaker of the House Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) wrote to Klein Knight in a February 10 letter. “As Speaker, I take very seriously any conduct which adversely reflects on you as a legislator or on the General Court as a whole and, as such, concur with the Co-Chairs’ recommendation.”
The recommendation was the result of a review of the “n-word” incident by the Speaker’s Advisory Group. Packard thanked Klein Knight for participating in the review, while at the same time raising questions about the accuracy of her claims.
“As for what transpired on January 20, 2022, you admitted to repeating a racial slur during a conversation with a citizen in the Legislative Office Building,” Packard wrote. But he added he was “deeply disappointed” by her recollection of events.
“One discrepancy with the reports our office has received is that you repeated the racial slur multiple times, whereas your statement suggests you said it one time. I understand you gave [the Advisory Group] assurances that you would never use such a word again. I am encouraged to hear this since a racial slur said to anyone in any circumstance is improper and reflects poorly on the New Hampshire House as a whole,” Packard wrote. [emphasis in original]
The official reprimand is just the latest consequence of a verbal encounter between Klein Knight and 18-year-old activist Jonah Wheeler. A group of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) progressives released a letter calling out Klein Knight’s racist language and demanding action.
In the ensuing days, Klein Knight was removed from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and from her leadership position in the House Progressive Caucus. However, some Democratic House members publicly suggested Klein Knight wasn’t being treated fairly. Rep. Casey Conley (D-Dover) said there was “score-settling” going on by progressive activists.
Progressives responded by accusing White Democrats in the House of being racist. “This situation has only revealed the depths of racism in the N.H. State House, and on all sides of the aisle,” they wrote in a subsequent statement.
The group’s spokesperson, Alissandra Rodriguez-Murray, told NHJournal: “Our statement two weeks ago uncovered and revealed how many of our supposed allies in the Democratic caucus don’t actually support BIPOC organizers in this state.”
There has been open warfare inside the House Democratic Caucus since.
Klein Knight’s behavior has not helped resolve the tensions. Progressives rejected her apology, accusing her of attempting to shift blame. Klein Knight then sent out a series of late-night tweets undermining her own apology.
“[Nobody] reached out to me. There has been n0 outreach about blatant antisemitic rhetoric. I have been targeted by certain individuals who seem to think if they label me as a racist then they will get away with antisemitism. This has been the most hypocritical soap opera ever performed,” she tweeted. “Continuous remarks about Jewish people and American Jews.”
Klein Knight shut down her Twitter account a few hours later.
Rep. Rosemary Rung (D-Merrimack) , another White Democrat, echoed Klein Knight’s comments about the antisemitism inside their caucus.
“She had been under immense stress from antisemitism and felt threatened by others because she is Jewish.” Rung wrote in a statement.