Misty Cook is blonde, rosy cheeked and pretty, but the sweet-looking mother of one is also the ex-girlfriend of Wade Michael Page, the gunman who brutally killed six Sikh worshipers in Milwaukee temple on Sunday. Although police say Cook is not a suspect in the shootings, they were worried enough about her connections to Page this weekend that they went to the restaurant where she worked and, after searching her apartment, arrested her on a charge of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.
In addition to Misty Cook’s felony rap sheet, she is also one of thousands of women in the United States who are a part of or support white supremacist organizations, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Misty supported Skinhead groups, including the white power groups that Wade Page followed and the ex-couple had in common. One of those groups, the Hammerskins, pledges to live by the 14 words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”
It’s easy to assume that only men like Page are a part of a dark and secretive culture that espouses violence and hate against minorities in our country and sometimes even acts on it. But the ADL estimates that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the roughly 100,000 people who support white supremacist group are women.
“There are different motivations for different women,” said Marilyn Mayo, the co-director of the Center on Extremism for the ADL. “Some follow their boyfriends into the movement, but by and large, they share the same ideology and that’s why they’re there.”
Mayo described the Skinhead culture like the one Cook and Wade followed as one that is predominantly male, but attracts — and even relies on — women to spread their beliefs.
“Their job is to be at home and have white babies,” Mayo said. “Just as women in other cultures pass on their beliefs and values, these women will pass on their white supremacist values and ideologies to their children.”
While women can’t join most of the groups, some like the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, have separate groups for female supporters. Women may have special names like “Skinbirds” or “Chelseas,” and create their own culture within a white power movement.
The ADL had been aware of Misty Cook for some time because of her active association with the Hammerskins, which also keeps women out, but lets them participate in a “support group” for women. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cook wrote more than 800 messages on the Hammerskins Web site between 2009 and 2012, often praising the skinhead community and people she met there.
One of those people appears to have been Wade Page.
Following the shootings, Misty Cook released a statement to the Journal Sentinel, calling Page’s rampage “a senseless tragedy” and asking that her privacy be respected as she struggles with how to deal with what's happened.
"If I could say something to ease the pain of the victims and their families I would gladly do so. Unfortunately words do not begin to heal the pain they are going through,” she wrote.
It’s true that Misty Cook cannot begin to heal the pain, and it's also true that she and Page had apparently not been dating for months. But Cook cannot claim to be without blame, even if she played no role in and had no knowledge of the shooting. She not only knew about the visceral hate in her Milwaukee community, but she participated in it, supported it, and from all outside signs, may even have enjoyed it.
Wade Page may have been the only gunman in the Sikh temple shooting, but he most certainly did not act alone.