A Republican state lawmaker from eastern Illinois is facing criticism for displaying a right-wing extremist logo on his truck when it was parked outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a deadly riot targeted Congress.
At that time, state Rep. Chris Miller was in the nation’s capital with his wife, first-term GOP Congresswoman Mary Miller, for her swearing-in. The couple also attended rallies protesting the re-election defeat of then-President Donald Trump.
This week, a photograph of Chris Miller’s Ford FX4 pick-up appeared on Twitter, with a sticker with the Three Percenters logo displayed in the back window of the Ford FX4 and the heavily guarded Capitol in the background.
Three Percenters are a major part of the anti-government militia movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which researches extremists. Three Percenters were allegedly among those who took part in the deadly siege in Washington last month. In the case against one Capitol riot defendant, federal prosecutors said Three Percenters believe in “the notion that a small force with a just cause can overthrow a tyrannical government if armed and prepared.”
“So it’s deeply troubling that you have an elected official who embraces an anti-government extremist symbol,” said David Goldenberg, the ADL’s regional director for the Midwest.
Miller also drew criticism from both Illinois Democrats and Republicans, including GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
“Our party needs to handle this and I support further investigation,” Kinzinger said of Miller on Twitter on Friday afternoon.
Chris Miller did not return emails and messages left on his cell phone and with his office in his Downstate legislative district
But in a statement, he said, “I have never been a member of the 3 percenters. My son received the sticker that was on my truck from a family friend who said that it represented patriotism and love of country. The original group, which has disbanded, was not a violent anti-government group. They were not involved in the Jan. 6th riots. They have issued a statement distancing themselves from the extremists who have copied their name. I have since removed the sticker. My intention was to display what I thought was a patriotic statement. I love our country and consider myself a patriot. My intention was not to hurt or offend anyone but simply to express what I thought was a statement of patriotism. God bless America.”
Chris Miller’s truck bore special legislative license plates in the photo taken on Jan. 6 in Washington. Miller is a farmer from Coles County, which is about 180 miles south of Chicago, and has been a state representative since 2019.
Congresswoman Miller’s spokeswoman did not return email and phone messages. Mary Miller issued an apology for comments she made in a speech in Washington on Jan. 5, when she said, “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’”
On Monday, the Millers endorsed the 2022 campaign for Illinois governor of state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville, who has been the most vocal critic of Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s orders to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Bailey’s campaign manager declined to comment.
According to the ADL, Three Percenters are active in Illinois and the logo also was seen at last year’s protests against the state government’s attempts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, where swastikas and other anti-Semitic signs were also displayed.
In one video from an anti-shutdown rally in Springfield in May, Chris Miller gave a speech in front of a sign with the Three Percenters logo on it, saying the “so-called crisis” of the pandemic had the benefit of revealing the Democrats as domestic enemies.
Chris Miller’s explanation for the Three Percenters vehicle decal was not adequate, said the ADL’s Goldenberg.
“Nobody puts something on their car randomly,” Goldenberg said. “People need to understand what they’re embracing. Declaring ignorance, especially ignorance from an elected official, is a completely unacceptable answer.”
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.