No Punishment For Karlee Provenza Over Controversial Antifa Meme

Despite significant outcry from some Wyoming Republicans, Democrat Rep. Karlee Provenza will not face any official punishment for a controversial meme she shared earlier this month of an Antifa meme in protest of transgender treatment and policies.

Leo Wolfson

April 13, 20236 min read

Wyoming House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, says in a 13-page letter outlining his position, that he won't recommend discipline for Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, for a controversial Antifa post she made April 1.
Wyoming House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, says in a 13-page letter outlining his position, that he won't recommend discipline for Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, for a controversial Antifa post she made April 1. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

In a 13-page letter released Wednesday afternoon, Wyoming House Speaker Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, says he won’t take any disciplinary action against Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, for a controversial meme she posted on social media April 1.

The meme she reshared shows an elderly woman holding a rifle with a scope and the words "Auntie Fa Says protect trans folks against fascists & bigots!" Auntie Fa is a reference to the left wing anti-fascist group Antifa.

With Sommers’ declining to move forward with an ethics complaints made against Provenza, the issue is dead as far as House leadership is concerned.

“In coming to this decision, I was guided by my personal belief in the rule of law and the traditions of the Wyoming Legislature, not what may be politically expedient,” Sommers says in the letter.

Sommers says that while he found Provenza’s posts to be inappropriate, uncivil conduct and a lack of good judgment from a state legislator, he does not believe they constitute misconduct. He said he sent Provenza a private reprimand in addition to the public admonishment he put out about it shortly after the meme was posted.

Provenza apologized for her post and explained she was expressing support for "arming and protecting the LGBTQ community, a group of people" that "depend upon Second Amendment protection.”

Sommers said Provenza received death threats over the post, which she shared less than a week after a mass shooting in Tennessee.

Sommers said he had also received complaints about a TikTok video Provenza posted last June featuring a voiceover of a bobbing electric eel calling for politically motivated murders.

The Legislative Service Office described the TikTok as “nonsensical” that cannot reasonably be considered a threat.

None of the posts Provenza made happened within the legislative session or during a legislative meeting.

Provenza 4 3 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Last Warning

Sommers said if Provenza exhibits further behavior of this nature, he will discipline her. 

“I do not believe it is my role as presiding officer to police all legislators’ online activity, especially when they are not performing legislative duties,” Sommers said. “If I become aware of any further escalation of uncivil behavior online by members of the House that breaches the decorum of the Wyoming House of Representatives, I will take appropriate action.”

In his letter, Sommers mentions a request he made during his speech before the 67th Legislature’s session in January asking for lawmakers to show grace toward each other during difficult times.

“I have tried to utilize that philosophy with each representative that has made a mistake during my term as Speaker while ensuring the representative understands the severity of their actions,” he writes. “During the Easter Season, I am particularly reminded of the importance of compassion for one another.”

On Tuesday, Sommers, Majority Floor Leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, and Minority Floor Leader Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, met about the Provenza matter in Cheyenne.

Rule Analysis

The speaker said he asked the LSO for a legal analysis of how legislator misconduct is determined in relation to rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The LSO said although Provenza’s posts may be “offensive” and “ill conceived,” it found “scant basis in Wyoming law or rules governing the Wyoming House of Representatives to believe that the allegations in the complaints constitute ‘misconduct involving legislative duties.’”

Most of the Legislature’s ethics rules relate to taking bribes and failing to avoid conflicts of interest. The LSO also found it doubtful that Provenza’s posts amounted to “violence or disorderly” conduct.


Many Republicans in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Republican Party and hardline conservative Wyoming Freedom Caucus, disagrees. They reacted with outrage to Provenza’s post and called for her to be removed from her committee assignments, and some requested she be expelled from the Legislature for the violence they said she promoted.

Specifically, some warned her post could incite further violence like the Tennessee mass shooting.

The LSO believes Provenza was within her right to free speech, but acknowledged this right is limited when someone makes a “true threat,” even if not credible. The office determined Provenza’s posts do not qualify as a “true threat.”

“Representative Provenza’s posts are almost certainly protected expression under the First Amendment and its Wyoming counterpart,” the LSO writes.

Sommers said behavior on social media has “become beyond the pale at times,” representing the worst transgressions of human behavior, adding he has no doubts that social media “can have a destructive impact on political discourse in Wyoming.”

“Still, it is imperative to remember that political expression is protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 20 of the Wyoming Constitution,” he writes. “With this constitutional right also comes personal responsibility. We must remember that even constitutionally protected actions have the potential to deeply hurt others. Free speech is at times a messy thing.”

Sommers said he wants to examine and debate how social media is allowed to be used within legislator decorum. He plans to have the Management Council's Legislator Ethics Complaint Procedure Subcommittee examine the issue. 

Past Incidents

In 2022, Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was stripped of his interim committee positions and his seat on the Management Council during the 2022 session for allegations of a “long pattern” of misconduct at the time, according to Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs.

 Sommers made a reference to Bouchard’s discipline in his letter, but clarified that happened during a legislative session. 

Sommers also referenced a 2021 incident when state Sen. Troy McKeown, R-Gillette, faced significant backlash for a Facebook post he made during the special legislative session, saying people need to proverbially fix bayonets against the state Legislature for its actions, or lack thereof, during the 2021 special session on COVID-19 restrictions.

McKeown faced no punishment for his comments.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter