Fact Check: Maine Lawmaker's Remarks Do NOT Support Views Of Local Neo-Nazi Group -- They Had To Do With Freedom Of Speech

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Maine Lawmaker's Remarks Do NOT Support Views Of Local Neo-Nazi Group -- They Had To Do With Freedom Of Speech Not Supporter

Did remarks by Maine state Rep. Laurel Libby in early April 2024 show support for the views of a local neo-Nazi group? No, that's not true: Libby's comments were taken out of context. The Republican lawmaker was referencing 2023 neo-Nazi protests in Maine when she said on the floor of the Maine Legislature, "I would like to know what they did that was illegal." Libby was making a point about First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech, assembly and association -- not advocating neo-Nazi ideology.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook by Occupy Democrats on April 4, 2024, under the title "BREAKING: IN AN UNHINGED RANT, MAINE REPUBLICAN LAWMAKER LAUREL LIBBY JUST ASKED, 'WHAT DID THE NAZIS DO THAT WAS ILLEGAL?' THIS IS WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST, FOLKS!" The post's caption said:


Follow Occupy Democrats for more.

Source: https://x.com/mainehdcc/status/1775650640397574173

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Apr 10 13:47:51 2024 UTC)

What Libby said

The quote attributed to Libby in the post on Facebook is not a direct quote but a paraphrase. The post says, "What did the Nazis do that was illegal." But this is what she said (archived here) on April 3, 2024, on the House floor in the Maine Legislature (starting at the 1:04:00 mark in the video):

Let's talk about the Nazis. I would like to know, although I'm not posing a question through the chair, I would like to know what they did that was illegal? I would like to know what they did in detail, if folks would like to share, that was wrong, that infringed on another person's right? Holding a rally and even holding a rally with guns is not illegal.

Out of context, Libby's comments appear to support Nazism in general. But in context, she wasn't doing that. Libby was referring specifically to a neo-Nazi rally (archived here) held in Maine on August 12, 2023. A photo of the rally appears below:


(Source: Portland Press Herald screenshot taken on Wed Apr 10 18:26:19 2024 UTC)

Additionally, she was talking about L.D. 2130 (archived here), a bill under debate at the time that the Maine Legislature has since passed that would ban paramilitary activity intended to create public disturbances or violence if the governor signs it into law. This is how the Portland Press Herald (archived here) described the legislation on April 9, 2024:

It was sponsored by Rep. Laurie Osher, D-Orono, in response to a prominent neo-Nazi, who announced - and later canceled - plans to build a training camp for white supremacists in the rural northern Maine town of Springfield. ...

Republicans have argued that the bill would infringe on First Amendment rights to free speech and association and their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. They argued that the standards in the bill are too vague, too subjective and could even be used to restrict Boy Scouts and American Legion events.

Libby continued her comments on the House floor at 1:04:55 in the video:

We don't have to like what said Nazis did. We don't have to like what they stand for. We don't have to agree with their positions. We don't have to think well of them. But you know what we do have to do? We have to protect their First Amendment right to free speech and association. That is our job. It is the duty of government -- whether we like them, whether we like the issue, whether we agree with them -- it is our duty to protect the Nazis' right to free speech and association, as long as it does not infringe on someone else's right. As long as they are not harming someone else.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (archived here) says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

A day after her comments on the House floor, Libby doubled down in a post (archived here) to her Facebook account. The post's caption said:

What do YOU think? Free speech and association for all... or only for those with whom we agree?

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Apr 10 18:09:53 2024 UTC)

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Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims involving Nazis can be found here.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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