Milwaukee City Attorney catches heat on controversial hire

By: - November 4, 2021 5:00 am
Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer (Photo | City of Milwaukee)

Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer (Photo | City of Milwaukee)

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), is calling on Milwaukee’s City Attorney Tearman Spencer to fire an attorney who worked as a legal analyst for what CAIR calls an anti-Muslim organization. Jennifer DeMaster, an attorney for the city of Milwaukee, once worked for the Clarion Project from 2015-2017. The Clarion Project has been linked to the films “Obsession: Radial Islam’s War Against the West,” and “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America.”

One interviewee in the film Obsession, Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, later called the production a “vile piece of propaganda,” according to a CAIR press release. Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director of CAIR, blasted DeMaster’s continued employment by the city. “It is inappropriate for a lawyer with a history of working with anti-Muslim hate groups to wield decision-making power as an assistant city attorney,’ said Mitchell. “Unless Ms. DeMaster renounces her reported work with anti-Muslim hate groups, meets with local Muslim leaders to address their concerns, and pledges to impartially uphold the law, City Attorney Tearman Spencer should relieve her of her position.”

In 2020, DeMaster wrote a book entitled “Babylon Unveiled: Redefining Faith. Exposing Deception.” An online description of the book states that it is based on DeMaster’s experiences in the Middle East through a variety of lenses, including people who’ve converted from Islam to Christianity. The book focuses on religion against a backdrop of Middle Eastern policy, including during the Trump era.

As a city attorney, DeMaster will be making $71,780 annually. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that DeMaster graduated from Regent University, founded by the 91-year-old televangelist Pat Robertson. Aside from her time at the Clarion Project, some city officials have expressed concern that DeMaster lacks experience. Her hiring comes as the city attorney’s office is embroiled in controversy.

Since being elected less than two years ago, Spencer’s office has lost dozens of staff. Allegations of sexual harassment have also emerged from female staff, with others describing a toxic work environment. Recently, Spencer blamed the deteriorating situation on negative media coverage, the pandemic, lack of support from the Common Council, and other issues. “I’m new here,” said Spencer, “how could I have created all of these problems?”


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.