Lt. Gov. under fire after posted photo

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Newly-installed Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is under fire for posing in a photo with conservative activists making hand gestures that some interpret to be a white-supremacist signal.

This photo was posted to Janice McGeachin’s Facebook page with the words, “sending love” to convicted felon Todd C. Engel. Courtesy Facebook.

Posted to social media last Thursday, the photo portrayed McGeachin, forming a heart symbol with her hands, with two men wearing orange jumpsuits and making the “OK” symbol. It’s a gesture commonly used by white supremacists, with the three extended fingers forming a W for “white” and the circular thumb and forefinger a P for “power.” But supporters of McGeachin and the pictured men, Anthony Dephue and James Ward, say the hand gestures are completely benign, with the two men instead signaling their support for the Three Percenter organization.

Dephue and Ward wore orange jumpsuits to protest the federal imprisonment of Todd Engel, who was prosecuted for his involvement with the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada. Shortly after the uproar began, the post was removed, and McGeachin said that people were falsely attributing a “sinister motive” to it.

“The photo was intended to show support for Engel and nothing more,” McGeachin wrote in a statement. “No other messages were intended in this photo. To claim otherwise is ridiculous, and is part of a larger narrative to paint conservative leaders as embracing identity politics.”

The photo attracted national attention, with media outlets and organizations condemning McGeachin for a perceived friendliness with an extremist right-wing element.

But others sprang to defend McGeachin and the Three Percenters. On Tuesday, the Idaho Three Percenter organization issued a fiery response to the widespread reaction, saying the men were making a common Three Percenter gesture that predates the white supremacist gesture. According to the Three Percenter organization, it will not ask its members to refrain from using the gesture and criticized the media for reporting the story.

Gov. Brad Little remains taciturn on the controversy but issued a short statement Monday.

“I discussed the issue with the Lt. Governor. All of us must be accountable for our actions and their implications, and I trust her to do the same,” he said.

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