This Is Bigger Than Gabrielle Hanson
What I wish John Oliver knew about Franklin, Tennessee
John Oliver recently did an incredible segment on the absurdity of the Franklin Alderman running for mayor, Gabrielle Hanson. You can watch that 10-minute segment on Crooks & Liars.
“In a world that made sense, this woman would obviously have withdrawn from this mayoral race in shame. But she still has supporters,” Oliver explained. “And there’s a real chance she could still win this election,” he bemoaned, even though “her numerous scandals are clearly almost cartoonish in their extremity...”
For a slightly less comical take, you can watch this MSNBC segment on YouTube.
Either way, you'll get the picture: we’ve got a Far Right MAGA candidate who consistently makes headlines for her bizarre, often ridiculously uncouth behavior.
Hanson’s behavior is so bad, she’s all over the national news and infotainment outlets. Locally, Nashville investigative reporter Phil Williams has been all over her like a persistent pebble in Hanson’s shoe.
Recently, Phil's investigations uncovered that Gabrielle Hanson is not merely a laughing matter. “Actual, literal Nazi[s]” have now shown up to publicly support her.
What’s peculiar to me is the shock folks seem to feel about Hanson’s brazen ties to white supremacists. Given her extremist politics, the MAGA love, plus her anti-gay rhetoric (and hypocrisy), I’d be far more surprised if she wasn’t connected to racism, antisemitism, and bigotry.
For anyone paying attention to Tennessee politics, and anyone aware of our state's history, none of this should be shocking.
As my friend Lindsay has suggested in one of her videos—not Tennessee!? Not Tennessee, the birth of the Ku Klux Klan!? Not Tennessee, where the House of Representatives ousted two Black members in a disgusting show of racism earlier this year!?
Yes. That Tennessee.
The same Tennessee whose Attorney General wants to access women's out-of-state medical records and demanded transgender patient medical records from Vanderbilt University Medical Center just this year.
One neo-Nazi named Brad Lewis, brother to Nashville’s notorious attorney Bryan Lewis, has threatened Gabrielle Hanson’s critics on social media, particularly Peggy Kingsbury, a former cop and police detective.
These messages are pure hate speech, posted for others to read and respond to on Telegram. They incite a very particular hatred and violence.
After all, in that first message above where he said it was time to silence her, Lewis included Peggy’s home address.
The second message, which contains an image that could only have been shared by someone on Gabrielle Hanson’s team, was posted mere hours after Peggy tried to get answers about the first threat at a campaign event in Franklin.
It was the same forum where Hanson was protected by Lewis and his band of white supremacists against so-called threats from, you guessed it, ANTIFA.
Did any scary ANTIFA members ever show up?
Nope. Just a potentially scary(?) Phil Williams, who asked Hanson why she was associated with self-proclaimed Nazis.
Her team immediately stepped up in cult-like fashion to tell the reporter to leave Gabrielle alone. One asked if there's ever been a moment where he's not harassing the candidate.
Then, a few hours after the forum ended, Brad Lewis made that second Telegram post, mocking Peggy for being scared enough to go to the police. Yet the image he used came from the screenshot Peggy gave Gabrielle Hanson—an interaction that was also caught on camera.
When Peggy asked Hanson if she knew the white supremacists had threatened her life, Hanson stammered that she didn't know, but claimed they weren't her friends or associates.
As a result of the Telegram posts, Peggy and her husband feel understandably uncomfortable with neo-Nazis having their home address. Peggy filed a police report for harassment, (remember, she's a former officer of the law). The police claimed there’s little they can do since the threats are... vague.
If that was the whole story, it would be awful enough.
However, this story isn’t over by a long shot. There are simply very few news outlets willing to cover more.
The city of Franklin lies in Williamson County—the wealthiest county in the state, and one of the most affluent counties in America. In recent years, it's also been a seat of significant political power and Far Right extremist ideology.
In fact, I've been writing about corruption in Franklin and Williamson County since 2021. That's when I first wrote about a then-14-year-old Gracie Solomon who said her father Aaron sexually abused her and murdered her brother to cover it up.
That story earned me my first cease and desist letter. The C&D came from Grace Chapel Church, a sprawling megachurch in none other than Franklin, Tennessee. Grace Chapel happens to house Grace Christian Academy (GCA) on its property, and both entities have long been accused of ignoring or hiding child sexual abuse.
These days, I'm fighting alongside Gracie's mom, Angie, and a handful of fellow writers and online creators to tell Grant's story and finally get a proper investigation into his death. Together with fellow supporters across the US, we're working to raise awareness about the corruption in and around Williamson County to hold Aaron Solomon and the leaders who failed these kids accountable.
Do you know who else is a great Grant and Gracie supporter?
Franklin's own Peggy Kingsbury.
About a week before Brad Lewis made threatening posts to silence Peggy, Fairview police arrested George Brewer for harassment. Williamson County police booked him. Like Peggy, George is another Grant and Gracie supporter whom Angie Solomon holds in high regard.
It's all a little too ironic, don't you think?
George, a GCA alumnus has been charged with harassment against his former school counselor Amy Curle for sending these texts over Facebook Messenger.
I find it strange, to put it mildly, that these messages would warrant an arrest when in the same county, police officers say their hands are tied about the white supremacist publicly making hate-filled threats online about Peggy.
Even though George's messages were worded very strongly and in a way I wouldn't use myself, the context is dramatically different. George wasn't threatening anything illegal or corrupt. He was not expressing any prejudice or discrimination.
George was expressing his wishes to see Amy held accountable for breaking the law and failing to report child abuse.
Amy Curle doesn't seem to think she did anything wrong. She's defended her actions by saying there are two sides to every story. Even substantiated child sexual abuse, apparently.
So, I'm sure Amy thought George's messages were mean. Okay.
But worthy of arrest? It's not as if George even kept messaging her, yet the city of Fairview and Williamson County truly have treated his words as a criminal offense.
The messages about Peggy were completely different. Again, we're talking about messages from a neo-Nazi leader to a whole group of fellow white supremacists. Classic KKK behavior aimed to intimidate someone—in this case, a white woman they view as a traitor.
Tennessee Active Club chats have also been targeting local journalists. After Phil Williams reported that Gabrielle Hanson once cheered on her husband in an American flag Speedo at a Chicago PRIDE event, one of the members called Phil a “lying sack of shit for the international jew media.”
They also claimed the “Day of the Rope is real and it’s approaching quicker than they can prepare for.”
If Williamson County doesn't know the difference between the hate speech of neo-Nazis, and the anger of a victim legally longing for justice, that's one more sign that Williamson County is corrupt.
Both George and Peggy are victims of that corruption. Both have supported us in our fight for justice for Grant, much to the dismay of Grace Chapel and GCA.
George is also a victim of cruelty and corruption within GCA—a school he and other alumni say asks prospective students about their sexual history as part of the standard admissions process.
They say GCA even asks would-be students if they have ever been raped.
Of course, we are talking about a private school with zero accountability and no real school board above them. Just these dudes. That's their entire board.
In a 2020 video at the start of the new school year, Headmaster Robbie Mason told parents, “I always say, we’re not gonna believe everything that your kids tell us about you, so please don’t believe everything that your kids say about us.”
If that weren’t enough of a red flag, other students have made allegations about the frightening atmosphere at the school.
I'm not particularly surprised then, to come across Reddits where former students describe GCA like this:
The teachers insulted us, verbally assaulted us, and at the worst- molested us. The headmaster, Robbie Mason, was frightening and domineering. During my senior year, I learned that Robbie met his wife when she was a teenager, and he was her basketball coach at her school. He told our Bible class that God blessed him with being able to watch his wife grow up. I began to wonder WHY THIS GUY WAS ALLOWED NEAR CHILDREN?? I had a friend be sexually assaulted by another student, and when she was finally brave enough to tell the school, Robbie told her that “boys will be boys” and to get over it, and not bring it up again. The boy who assaulted her was the son of my teacher. She taught me gym and Bible.
I knew we (Grant and Gracie supporters) were onto significant corruption when both the church and school kept protecting Aaron Solomon with incredibly shallow objections and weak arguments.
I also knew we were onto something just by looking at the connections between Grace Chapel in Franklin and Washington DC.
Why would the governor, a state Senator, and circuit judge all protect an obvious (and now substantiated) child abuser in their own church? Just because he used to be a Nashville anchor?
That seems unlikely.
Also, why would local news stations quake in fear after Grace Chapel’s founding Pastor Steve Berger reportedly threatened a multi-million dollar lawsuit if they dared touch Aaron Solomon?
How much power could one pastor have to be so frightened?
The press is protected by many frivolous lawsuits, and could certainly cover Gracie’s claims without defaming Aaron.
Besides, over the past couple of years, Aaron not only lost his appeals to overturn the sexual abuse substantiation — he’s either lost or withdrawn every defamation lawsuit he's filed to shut up his children's supporters.
Now that Steve Berger famously left Grace Chapel in 2021 after another scandal?
He's preaching at another Williamson County church, this time in Fairview, as a pastor emeritus. Only today did I learn that the Fairview church was started by Franklin's Grace Chapel. The church websites conveniently omit that fact.
Steve says his biggest focus, however, is Ambassador Services International (ASI). Among their many projects is “a discipleship program in Washington DC to educate, equip, and inspire statesmen.”
That's right, folks. Despite his part in the January 6 riot, and that lengthy, finger-pointing apology, Steve is still worming his way into Far Right politics by cozying up to politicians.
Steve Berger's official statement claiming he's not a hypocrite like all those other guys...
Meanwhile, he's preaching that gay people, like his own ex-congregant George Brewer, are vitriolic, anti-Christ personalities, and that Christians are in a war with them. And cannot back down.
When I say corruption runs deep in Williamson County, this is all just scratching the surface. It's going to take much more work, and likely, a lot more independent journalism to finally break these stories.
To start pulling enough at each thread for the rest of the country to understand exactly what we're dealing with.
One thing is certain: the current nightmare in Franklin is so much bigger than Gabrielle Hanson.
Follow Shannon on truthurts.substack.com to stay updated about the unfolding nightmare in Tennessee and our fight to get justice for Grant Solomon.