WALLINGFORD, Conn. — The Veterans of Foreign Wars is standing by an officer at a Connecticut post who was convicted years ago of crimes involving bigotry as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Scott E. Palmer, senior vice commander of Post 591 in Wallingford, was among several Klansmen arrested as a part of an investigation in the 1990s into a rising number of hate crimes in the area, the Record-Journal reports .
Post commander Michael Del Monaco said he is concerned with what Palmer has done for veterans and not his past role with the KKK. Palmer didn't respond to requests for comment.
"All I can do is commend him on what he's done," Del Monaco said. "Look at what he's done for the VFW to help veterans."
Joe Davis, a spokesman for the national VFW, said the nonprofit does not have concerns about Palmer's role as senior vice commander.
"The VFW salutes all who serve, especially when the vast majority of Americans don't. Our military is great because of its diversity; our country, too," he said.
Palmer was convicted in 1993 of intimidation based on bigotry for punching a customer outside a gay bar. He also pleaded guilty to intimidation based on bigotry for yelling slurs at Hispanic men.
Palmer was elected to the leadership role with the VFW by the local chapter, which has 266 members. Del Monaco said Palmer is well-liked throughout the organization and has donated hundreds of hours to veterans and the community.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, said he was appalled by the VFW's decision to stand by Palmer.
"The VFW represents fighting for American rights, civil rights and for them to support this type of racism is very hypocritical," Esdaile said. "And the leadership of the VFW, on the national level, needs to step in."