Jim Murphy has spread conspiracy theories, Islamophobia, and other extreme rhetoric online during his time in local government. Now, the spotlight on his rhetoric might be his undoing.
Jim Murphy officially represents portions of Green Bay-area villages Allouez and Bellevue as a nonpartisan Brown County Board supervisor. But online, his behavior is anything but nonpartisan, as he spends his time spreading extreme right-wing misinformation and conspiracies.
As a county supervisor, Murphy, a 73-year-old military veteran, is tasked with crafting local ordinances and budgets, and deliberating over county-level concerns. Yet his online behavior has drawn the most attention in recent months, as he has come under fire for fortifying conspiracy theories such as that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax, and that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election due to widespread fraud. To date, COVID-19 has killed at least 260 people in Brown County and infected 32,000, and fewer than 30 cases of potential voter fraud have been identified in Wisconsin’s 2020 election, a fraction of the more than 3 million votes cast last November.
During his time on the Brown County board, Murphy voted against forming a racial equity subcommittee, voted against a referendum question aimed to create a nonpartisan redistricting procedure, and joined 11 of his fellow supervisors in voting for a post-2020 election review of state election methods after Republicans raised false allegations of election fraud.
In March, Brown County dismissed an ethics complaint filed by village of Suamico resident Jane Benson regarding Murphy’s extremist rhetoric. Benson filed a 19-page sworn affidavit detailing over 20 social media screenshots from Murphy’s Twitter and LinkedIn pages—which list Murphy as a leader of the Wisconsin chapter of an armed Christian Tea Party affiliate called “the Black Robe Regiment,” as well as the Green Bay Tea Party chapter. Murphy also has a history of spreading Islamophobic messages and conspiracies through MyMilitia, an online message board with extremist far-right ties.
In her March letter, Benson wrote “there is a difference between truth and lies, and Brown County should have a Board that supports truth and discourages lies.”
Benson’s ethics complaint was dismissed by Brown County Corporation Counsel David Hemery because Brown County does not regulate social media and online behavior for its board members. Hemery, Murphy, and Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach did not respond to a request for comment.
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In July, The Press Times delved into the logistics behind the County’s lack of social media guidance for Murphy, among other regional elected officials. The Press Times and The NEWcomer are the only local media outlets who have covered Murphy’s online extremism as Gannett-owned Green Bay Press Gazette and cable news station-affiliates have shied away from Murphy’s mire.
“This is a really fine example of what happens when people don’t pay enough attention,” said Mark Becker, a former Brown County supervisor and county GOP chairman from 2012-14.
During his time as the county Republican Party chair, Becker became familiar with Murphy’s extremism during internal party meetings in which Becker was criticized for not being right-wing enough. Becker has since denounced the party due to a rise in extremism and devoted Trump followers.
While the position of supervisor is supposedly nonpartisan, Becker said partisan politics are a part of every election, regardless of position. To him, Murphy’s far-right ties are an example of the divided Republican political party in the wake of Trumpism felt throughout the state and country.
“There’s a great unknown with what is going to happen in the GOP,” said Becker.
For Brown County residents who were shocked to learn about the extreme rhetoric coming from a current supervisor, Becker offered hope that a rise in extremism will lead to more previously disengaged citizens becoming rational candidates and people will “break with the crazy.”
“When you have someone like Jim Murphy,” Becker said, “I hope and I truly believe that you’re going to see quite a few people run against him and he will not win again.”