Outspoken progressive state Rep. Nicole Klein Knight (D- Manchester) has been forced out of the House Progressive Caucus, resigning rather than facing a vote to remove her, NHJournal has learned. The move came in response to a complaint made by a group of BIPOC progressives claiming she repeatedly used the “N-word” in a conversation with a Black activist in the State House.
“The House Progressive Caucus is disturbed by comments made by Rep. Nicole Klein Knight,” the caucus co-chairs said in a statement Wednesday. “Use of a racial slur so widely understood to be unacceptable is diametrically opposed to our values. Today, we are accepting Rep. Klein Knight’s resignation from our executive board.”
The statement was signed by Reps. Chuck Grassie (D-Rochester), Tim Smith (D-Manchester), and Josh Adjutant (D-Enfield).
Meanwhile, members of the House Democratic Caucus are at odds over the handling of the allegations, with one member urging his fellow representatives to wait until more facts were in before making a judgment.
In a February 1 email, Rep. Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham) described the incident involving Klein Knight and “a local high school student and progressive activist who spoke at the hearing on the secession bill CACR 32,” Horrigan wrote.
“And Rep. Klein-Knight apparently got into a heated discussion with him after his testimony. In retrospect, this was an unwise decision on her part. Aside from her (allegedly) saying the N-word many times, she is an elected official in her mid-30s & he is just a concerned citizen who is 17 or 18 years old, so the confrontation probably felt much more threatening to him than if it had been between 2 adults (or between 2 young people.)
“And of course, saying N***** 20 times in public, or even once, is never a great idea: it is never going to end well,” Horrigan added.
Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland) responded via email:
“Tim, from what I have been told — not by Nicole but someone I trust — your version of what happened is nowhere near accurate. Spreading versions based on agendas from either side is not helpful, which is why I am not doing so.
“To me (and perhaps me only) the fact that Rights and Democracy provided no tic-toc of what actually happened speaks volumes. I am hopeful that there will be a security camera feed available,” Berch wrote.
A complaint against Klein Knight has been filed with the House Ethics Committee.
Rights and Democracy (RAD) is one of the progressive organizations behind the push to have Rep. Klein Knight punished for her alleged language. Asked about the suggestion that the legitimacy of the complaint is in question, former RAD organizer Alissandra Rodriguez-Murray told NHJournal, “Nothing in the statement is false, and any missing information will be revealed through the Ethics Committee’s complaint process.”
Rodriguez-Murray, now a director at New Hampshire Youth Movement, has been acting as a spokesperson for the BIPOC group that denounced Klein Knight in a press release on Monday. She also denied claims by House Democrats that her group wants Klein Knight kicked out of the House.
“This group is not asking for Rep. Klein Knight’s resignation and leaves the consequences of her actions up to party leadership and the Ethics Committee.”
More moderate Democrats aren’t so sure. They say the Klein Knight story goes back to November and Rep. Maria Perez’s anti-semitic social media postings. After NHJournal broke the story of Perez tweeting a statement calling for the destruction of the state of Israel, it took weeks for the Progressive Caucus or House Democratic leadership to respond.
“Nicole wouldn’t let it go,” one House Democrat told NHJournal on Wednesday. “And the [progressive caucus] didn’t want to hear it. It caused real tension.”
Another referenced TV celebrity Whoopi Goldberg, suggesting some BIPOC members of the House Progressive Caucus have the same blind spot about antisemitism “The View” co-host revealed this week when she insisted the Holocaust “wasn’t about race.”
“This is White people doing it to White people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves,” Goldberg said.
Some House members believe Klein Knight’s N-word-laden conversation with Black activist Jonah Wheeler was an attempt to address these issues.
Rodriguez-Murray denied there is any connection between Klein Knight’s behavior regarding the Perez incident and her group’s complaints Wednesday.
The incident with Perez is completely separate from this incident,” she said. “When the fallout happened from Rep. Perez’s tweet, none of us had any communication with State House leadership regarding her situation.”
Rep. Berch told NHJournal it is important to him that he is not pre-judging the situation. “I don’t know whose story to believe, and there are all kinds of stories out there. I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong.”
Asked about the Progressive Caucus and antisemitism, Berch said, “I have no idea if this was part of an agenda against Nicole Klein Knight or not. But, as one of the people heading up the effort on Maria Perez, my experience and my knowledge is that antisemitism on the left is no less an issue than antisemitism on the right. And that essentially both are the same thing.”