McHenry mayor, business dealing with fallout from Proud Boys founder's scheduled appearance

After an uproar and subsequent cancellation of a planned comedy event featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes in McHenry on Thursday night, Mayor Wayne Jett said his initial reaction on social media "wasn't the best look," but he was upset with what he saw as efforts to ruin a business.

Jett initially had taken to social media Thursday night criticizing those involved in a social media campaign to cancel the event. He said the venue, The Vixen, had not known McInnes was involved when the event was booked and pushed back against those who had said he supported the Proud Boys.

"As I sit here tonight, rewatching my (social media) video, I see why some took it in a way that I didn't mean," Jett said in the statement posted about 1 a.m. Friday. "I will refrain from posting when it's in the heat of the moment, as that wasn't the best look, but that is kinda who I am. I'm honest, and I tell it how it is."

In a video posted to Facebook, which was later deleted, Jett expressed his frustration with the pushback to McInnes' visit. Jett said the community's reaction "made him sad" and he wished the Vixen had not canceled the event. He said "I'm done with all of you" who posted comments about the situation on Facebook.

Jett said his criticism was directed solely at those he knows who "wrote some very nasty comments far from the truth" about him and The Vixen.

"I have always been about engaging people and bringing them together for the sake of the community," Jett said in his statement. "But for all these people to start groups to kill someone's business isn't right."

McInnes, who also co-founded Vice Media, founded the Proud Boys in 2016, although he no longer is part of the group's leadership. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Proud Boys a hate group, leading McInnes to sue the organization.

McInnes has been part of a Cognitive Dissidents Tour with comedians Josh Denny and Anthony Cumia. They were scheduled to perform at the Brauer House in Lombard on Thursday, but when the venue canceled, the group turned to The Vixen. After the McHenry venue also received complaints and criticism over social media, the event was canceled there.

Jett said in his Friday post that the business was inundated with "messages, emails and calls about how we are supporting a Proud Boys event."

In a statement after the cancellation, the owners of The Vixen said they "fully support free speech, but we do not advocate nor condone hate speech. The ownership has become aware of the deplorable views of 'the artists' scheduled to perform this evening, and we chose to cancel the event."

McInnes switched the venue a third time to a meet-and-greet at Ye Olde Corner Tap, followed by a performance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600, both in McHenry.

Although Jett said he was "100% to blame" in helping to book the event, he said it was not pitched to The Vixen as a Proud Boys event. He said he had received a call from a Chicago-area comedian who said Cumia and Denny were looking for a new venue after another one had a conflict.

Jett said he thought booking Cumia - who was fired by SiriusXM Radio in 2014 after a series of tweets filled with racial slurs - on a Thursday "was a slam dunk" for The Vixen. He said he thought it seemed weird when he asked for a flyer and didn't get a response.

When The Vixen began hearing that McInnes was coming to the event, Jett said he "couldn't get a straight answer and kept digging." He eventually spoke to McInnes, who Jett said was "very professional" and told Jett he was no longer involved in the Proud Boys.

"I am always one to give those the benefit of the doubt and trust everyone along with giving second chances," Jett said in his social media post.

But he said that after more research, the venue and mayor found statements made after he left the Proud Boys that were similar to the statements he had made before. At that point, he said, they decided to cancel the event.

Jett said he remains frustrated over how quickly and aggressively the Vixen's reputation was damaged, including through a barrage of negative reviews on Facebook and Google.

Wayne Jett, McHenry mayor Courtesy of City of McHenry
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