Franklin, Tennessee, is a suburb of Nashville with a population of almost 87,000. It’s not the kind of place where mayoral candidates usually make national news. But MAGA mayoral candidate Gabrielle Hanson is something special. Hanson, currently an alderman in Franklin, made a splash last week when she was caught lying that the racially diverse group of women in a picture were her friends and supporters. Now, Hanson has admitted to a past arrest for promoting prostitution after News Channel 5’s Phil Williams, who broke the fake-friends story, started asking questions.
In an Instagram video, Hanson said that in the 1990s, when she was on the verge of completing college after 13 years as a student, she found a job that paid double what she was making at the two jobs she was working at the time and allowed her to work from home, answering the phone. She didn’t realize, she says, that the entertainment casting company employing her was “operating a very lucrative casting couch,” until the police showed up at her door. Unable to afford an attorney, she pleaded no contest to a single charge of promoting prostitution on a deferred adjudication deal, with the requirement that she not live in Dallas for two years—not a problem since she was moving to Chicago after graduating from college.
That’s what Hanson says, and it’s a believable enough story, even a sympathetic one—though you have to remember that this is someone who falsely claimed that a picture showed a group of her friends and then, when the women denied knowing her, claimed that those denials were an attempt to protect her. That, too, was false, Williams reported. As one of the women in the photo put it, “Omg!!! She is incorrigible!”
Gabrielle Hanson is an established liar, and there’s no real reason to believe that she was merely answering phones for a prostitution business, innocent of the real nature of her work. But let’s go with her on this one. Let’s believe that she spent more than a decade trying to graduate from college, attending night school while working two jobs, then got her big break with admission to a good four-year-college. Let’s believe that she didn’t look too closely at why the easy job answering the phone at home paid so much more than every other job she could find, that she was just grateful to have a way to get through.
If you believe her on all of that, you are left with a woman who struggled for years, who benefited from prosecutors giving her a decent deal—and who went on to make her name as a bigot and a liar. Because no matter the facts leading up to her arrest, those are the facts about Hanson now. It’s not just the photo and the lie about her “friends” trying to protect her. While Hanson has been an alderman in Franklin, she’s made periodic appearances in Illinois, supporting her husband’s repeated campaigns for Congress in that state, although he appears to live in Tennessee with her.
Hanson’s record gets uglier. In May, the parent of a child who survived the Covenant School shooting, emotionally demanded Hanson’s resignation or expulsion from the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen after Hanson spread false claims about the shooting.
“I think it’s an abomination that an elected official had the audacity to spread unfounded gossip and conspiracy theories about such an unspeakable tragedy suffered by many of her fellow citizens,” Franklin resident Jason Rowlett told the board. “The only reason I can think as to why she did this was to further her political career. The citizens of Franklin deserve better.”
Rowlett’s remarks came the month after Hanson voted against allowing a Pride event in Franklin, and around the time she was claiming to have received threats resulting from that vote—threats the Franklin Police Department concluded were unfounded. In July, Hanson was found to have violated an ethics code with messages objecting to the Metro Nashville Airport Authority’s support of a Juneteenth event.
Having answered the phone for a business selling sex does not make you a bad person. Gabrielle Hanson is a bad person, though, because that experience didn’t make her less judgmental, and because of so many other, more recent things she has done. Her explanation for the course of her life following her arrest, offered in her Instagram video explaining the circumstances of the arrest, is: “I gave my life to Christ, and I’ve never turned back.” If spreading lies that harm the survivors of a mass shooting, spreading bigotry on multiple fronts, and repeatedly lying about who your friends and supporters are is what giving your life to Christ looks like in Hanson’s eyes, it explains some things.
Correction: A previous version of the photo caption in this story gave a wrong first name for Gabrielle Hanson.