An Illinois lawmaker married to a member of Congress, who was herself recently criticized for quoting Hitler, is facing his own rebuke for displaying the logo of an extremist movement on his pickup truck at the U.S. Capitol complex in Washington on Jan. 6.
His wife, Rep. Mary E. Miller (R-Ill.), had been sworn in to her first term in the House just days earlier.
A group of Illinois Democrats is now calling for the state’s Office of the Legislative Inspector General to investigate “to what extent Miller played a role in the events of January 6, 2021.”
Miller has denied involvement with the Three Percenters movement and claimed he didn’t know what the logo represented. In an email to the Daily Beast, which first reported on the photo, Miller said he displayed the “cool” sticker given to him by an “Army friend” and only removed it after the backlash.
Then, in a statement from Miller’s office Friday, he said the sticker was given to his son by a family friend who said it represented “patriotism and love of country.”
“My intention was to display what I thought was a patriotic statement. I love our country and consider myself a patriot,” the statement read.
Miller did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s requests Saturday seeking clarification or issue a response to the call for him to be investigated.
State lawmakers such as Bob Morgan, a Democratic representative from suburban Chicago, rejected Miller’s denials. On Twitter, he called the Three Percenters display “unacceptable for an average person” and “garbage and disqualifying” for a member of the Illinois General Assembly.
“I really look at Jan. 6 as a clear line in the sand,” Morgan told The Post on Saturday. “If you choose insurrection, you don’t deserve to serve as an elected official.”
Several of his Democratic colleagues already viewed Miller and his wife as “central figures” in the attempted coup Jan. 6. and said flaunting a Three Percenters logo is part of a broader trend by the couple.
Rep. Mary E. Miller spoke at one of the rallies ahead of the Jan. 6 riot where she told the audience, “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’ Our children are being propagandized.”
She later apologized for quoting the Nazi leader while also accusing people of trying to “twist” her words.
Her husband identifies as a member of the so-called “Eastern Bloc,” an unofficial caucus of populist, anti-tax and anti-regulation state Republicans in the deepest-red parts of Illinois. The group opposed the state’s stay-at-home orders at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
On Jan. 6, moments before insurrectionists attacked the Capitol, Miller live-streamed a video in which he called Democrats “terrorists” and declared “we’re engaged in a great culture war to see which worldview will survive.”
Moments before a riotous mob stormed the US Capitol, Illinois state Representative Chris Miller, husband to Congresswoman Mary Miller, railed against “dangerous Democrat terrorists,” and said “we’re in a great cultural war to see which worldview will survive.” pic.twitter.com/kJW2GtRbvq— Mark Maxwell (@MarkMaxwellTV) January 7, 2021
“I don’t think there’s much ambiguity about the side they’re on,” Morgan said.
Democrats and a small number Republicans have cited the Capitol insurrection as a wake-up call about the rising tide of right-wing extremism in the country. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) is among the few members of the GOP to call out his party’s embrace of conspiracy theories and extremism. He was among the just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
Kinzinger has specifically rebuked the Millers before, condemning Rep. Mary E. Miller’s quoting of Hitler as “garbage” last month. Friday, Kinzinger tweeted of state Rep. Chris Miller, “Our party needs to handle this and I support further investigation.”
Illinois Republican leadership has not weighed in on Miller’s decision to display an extremist group’s logo on his car or the calls for him to be investigated over it. The chairman of the Illinois Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
The Anti-Defamation League called the embrace of an anti-government extremist symbol “deeply disturbing” in a statement Saturday.
“We expect our elected officials to speak out against hate and extremism, not embrace and display their symbols,” said David Goldenberg, the regional director for the ADL Midwest. “Ignorance of extremist symbols, especially by elected officials, is unacceptable.”
The group noted it contacted Rep. Mary E. Miller last week to share troubling data coming from and around the congressional district she has been newly elected to serve. Between 2019 and 2020, the ADL said it documented more than 50 hate, extremist, antisemitic and terrorist incidents in Illinois’ 15th Congressional District.
Three Percenters subscribe to a core ideology that the government has tyrannical tendencies and seeks to undermine civil liberties and constitutional freedoms, and thus must be kept in check by forceful armed groups, according to Arie Perliger, who studies political violence, extremism and far-right politics at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and wrote the 2020 book, “American Zealots: Inside Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism.”
“There is a much larger group that don’t dispute to the core ideology of the Three Percenters but [who] agree that the government is overreaching and eroding some basic American way of life,” Perliger told The Post.
The Three Percenters ideology emerged in 2008 around the idea that a small number of “patriots” protect Americans from the tyranny of big government, with the name itself being a reference to the debunked claim that only 3 percent of the population fought against the British in the American Revolution.
Almost every state has a chapter of the Three Percenters and their own visual artifacts; Perliger described them as unique logos and memorabilia — shirts, hats, stickers — that all reference the Roman numeral three, stars and “percent” written or represented by a symbol.
“There are lot of people who identify with this idea, even if they don’t always subscribe to the full range of the ideology,” Perliger said.
As for Miller’s defense of plausible deniability, Perliger is unconvinced.
“He’s a politician. He’s a public figure. He should know when he puts a political sticker on the car, he has a responsibility to verify what it means,” Perliger said. “He’s either lying or he’s admitting he’s not being responsible.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly said that U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger was among 10 House Republicans who voted to convict former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. They voted to impeach him. This article has been updated.