McHenry mayor seeks to explain comments after canceled Vixen event featuring Proud Boys founder

Mayor Wayne Jett on Friday said his reaction ‘wasn’t the best look’ but he was upset with what he thought were efforts to ruin the Vixen as a business

Attendees gather outside for a pop-up meet-and-greet Gavin McInnes in McHenry on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. McInnes went to Ye Olde Corner Tap after his planned show at the Vixen was cancelled over his controversial past, including his founding of the Proud Boys.

After the uproar and subsequent cancellation of a planned comedy event with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes in McHenry on Thursday night, Mayor Wayne Jett on Friday said his 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 the reaction of those involved in a social media campaign to cancel the event, saying the Vixen had not known McInnes was involved when the event was booked and pushing back against those who had said he supported the Proud Boys.

“As I sit here tonight, rewatching my 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.”

Jett said his criticism was directed solely at those who “I know personally” 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 Josh Denny and Anthony Cumia. They were scheduled to perform at the Brauer House in Lombard on Thursday; when the Lombard venue canceled, the group turned to the Vixen in McHenry as an alternate site.

After the Vixen also received complaints and criticism over social media, the event was canceled there, too.

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

In a collective 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.”

Proud Boys members describe the group as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists,” The Associated Press reported. They have brawled with antifascist activists at rallies and protests.

McInnes subsequently 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 added that even though some characterized it as a “Proud Boys event,” that was not how it was pitched to the Vixen. He said he had received a call from a Chicago-area comedian who said Anthony Cumia and Josh 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 the post.

But he said that after more research, they 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.

“I was trusting in Anthony and Josh to bring a great private event to McHenry,” Jett said in the post, adding that he had let management at the Vixen know he no longer would participate in booking acts there.

Jett said he remained frustrated over how quickly and aggressively the Vixen’s reputation was damaged, including through a barrage of bad reviews on Facebook and Google by people who he said did not know the entire situation.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the venue in Lombard where Gavin McInnes was originally scheduled to appear Thursday.

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