“If you speak the language fluently, you would know that [is] the English definition of the word,” she wrote on her official Facebook page, which is no longer online. “The progressives have put a spin on it and created their own definition.”
Allard has now faced the consequences after doubling down on her post. On Tuesday, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) removed her from the state’s human rights commission, a spokesperson confirmed to The Washington Post.
“The comments made by Ms. Allard regarding the license plate controversy have become a distraction for the Human Rights Commission and its mission to ensure equality and fair treatment of all Alaskans,” the statement said.
In a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday, Allard offered an apology and said her remarks on Facebook were being misconstrued.
“I unequivocally condemn racism and white supremacy in all forms,” she wrote. “Some have mis-interpreted my recent comments as defending a specific license plate; that was never my intention, nor have I done so. In fact, I find the plate in question in poor taste.”
Custom license plates are not a new battleground in fights about where to draw the line between hate speech and free speech. Last year, for instance, a federal judge in California said the state could not deny vanity plate requests deemed “offensive to good taste and decency.”
Yet in most cases, car owners and Department of Motor Vehicles officials have only fought over proposals for plates. Not over actual license plates — and not over Nazi terminology, as was the case in Alaska over the weekend.
The backlash began when Matthew Tunseth was driving around downtown Anchorage on Friday and noticed a “jaw-dropping license plate.”
As he tells it, he had to give his “eyeballs time to pop back into their sockets” after spotting the “3REICH” vanity plate on the black Hummer in front of him. At a stoplight, he reached for his phone to snap a photograph and post it to Twitter.
“If you’ve seen the picture and you have soul you might have had a similar feeling to me — a mix of disgust, bemusement, resignation, fear,” Tunseth, a former newspaper editor, wrote on his Medium page.
Within hours, elected officials and regular Alaskans all demanded an explanation from state officials: How had someone managed to get a vanity license plate bearing Nazi terminology?
But Allard, writing on Facebook later over the weekend, said she saw nothing wrong with either phrase. The Army veteran and mortgage company owner pointed out that “fuhrer” means “leader” and “reich” translates to “realm” — even though both words are closely associated with Adolf Hitler and his rule of Germany.
“Now, before you know it the German word Danke will be outlawed as it sounds close to Donkey,” she wrote in comments on her official Facebook page, according to screenshots posted to Facebook by another assembly member, Meg Zaletel.
All seats on the 11-person Anchorage Assembly are officially nonpartisan, but Allard has fashioned herself as a “trusted conservative voice.” Zaletel, who said she is “not concerned about political party affiliation,” publicly slammed her colleague’s “indefensible” comments on social media, writing that those phrases “have a history of hurting, attacking and killing people.”
“Etymology doesn’t change the racist and dangerous history in which the words Fuhrer and 3rd Reich came into popular English usage,” she wrote. “Words matter!”
Allard shot back, reportedly accusing Zaletel of “inciting hatred” and “fake pandering.” As of early Wednesday, her Facebook page was no longer online — but by then, Allard’s comments had led to enough havoc for other lawmakers to start taking action.
Dunleavy removed her from the human rights commission, to which she had been appointed less than two years ago. Felix Rivera, the chair of the Anchorage Assembly, said Allard might face a vote from her colleagues to remove her from certain committee appointments or censure her.
“I don’t think it should be hard to denounce white supremacy,” he told Alaska Public Media. “It should be really easy, actually, to denounce white supremacy and Nazis. So it’s unfortunate that Assembly member Allard couldn’t do the right and frankly, easy thing.”
As for the license plates themselves?
Kelly Tshibaka, the Alaska Department of Administration’s commissioner, released a statement on Monday noting that the plates had already been recalled by the DMV. She added that Alaska prohibits personalized license plates with references to race, ethnicity, violence and government entities, among other categories.
Moving forward, however, the state agency would be reviewing its vanity plate process, she noted, on two fronts: “preventing inappropriate messages, and also the state’s obligation to protect Alaskans’ constitutional rights to free speech.”