WALLINGFORD — VFW Post 591 removed its senior vice commander from the position Tuesday after a Record-Journal report revealed he was a former Ku Klux Klan leader.
Michael Del Monaco, commander of Post 591 on Prince Street, issued a statement via Facebook Tuesday saying Scott E. Palmer was no longer vice commander.
“VFW Post 591 will continue to serve local veterans and the greater Wallingford community with dignity and honor as it has done for over 70 years,” Del Monaco said. “There is no room for any prejudice toward race, color, religion, or sexual preference. I have removed Scott E. Palmer as Sr. Vice Commander.”
A national VFW spokesman said Palmer resigned Monday night and Del Monaco reinforced the resignation with the removal. Palmer did not return requests for comment.
Del Monaco initially backed Palmer when contacted by the Record-Journal last week, saying he was more concerned with Palmer’s current involvement with the VFW and not his former leadership of the KKK or recent social media comments in which Palmer defended an Air Force reservist’s racist tirade. He also said Palmer was in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Palmer’s membership status with the organization was not clear Tuesday.
Palmer ran a Meriden-Wallingford chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1990s and was convicted of multiple hate crimes against minority groups, according to archived news stories and court documents. A spokesman for the national VFW initially also stood by Palmer, but the national commander issued a statement Wednesday condemning Palmer’s past.
“The VFW does not condone or tolerate any action that disrespects someone else,” Harman said in a statement. “We have no tolerance for racism. Our nation is great because of the diversity of its people, and there is no place within this organization for a differing opinion. The VFW is continuing to investigate this matter and will explore every possible option as it pertains to this member’s actions.”
The Connecticut NAACP criticized the local VFW’s response and called on the national group to step in.
Response to the story was swift, as veterans and the general public both criticized the VFW group giving Scott a leadership position despite his reported racist views. Some challenged the VFW’s ability to prove its commitment to inclusion.
Eric Shields, a member of VFW Post 591 for two years, said Palmer’s “past and present attitudes and behaviors are strictly unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the VFW, our community, or the nation in which we all live.”
Shields, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2006 to 2016 as an infantryman and corporal, has since received a master’s degree in business administration from Southern Connecticut State University.
“Occasionally people have shown that they can reform their hateful views, but the recent social media posts by Palmer unequivocally demonstrate that this has not happened,” Shields stated in an e-mail.
The VFW doesn’t need to convince anyone that it’s all-inclusive with respect to skin color, gender, age, sexual-orientation, he said. Instead it needs to do a better job looking into the past conduct or criminal records of members and leadership.
Shields hopes the community sees the incident as an isolated situation and invited residents to visit the post to meet its members.