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NAR has been so busy making headlines that it went nearly unreported that one of their top Realtor Code of Ethics trainers, Leigh Brown, was held back from running for the organization’s VP position due to inappropriate social media comments and likes — until Instagram watchdog TenDashFive shared the social media in question in September.
NAR’s 2021 vice president of advocacy and an outspoken advocate of the organization, even today, Brown hasn’t been shy about the nomination process and defending her stances on social media, though NAR won’t comment on the specifics.
On Aug. 1, Brown took to her YouTube channel for a livestream to explain why, after a lengthy appeals process, she was “deemed ineligible” to run for NAR’s First Vice President position in 2024 “based on five old social media comments and likes,” she said in the video. Essentially, NAR’s top Code of Ethics trainer was found to be not ethical enough to run for First Vice President.
Months later, the social media content in question was revealed on Sept. 21, 2023, by watchdog TenDashFive, a handle that seeks to publicly air violations of NAR’s Code of Ethics because they are difficult to police.
The X (platform formerly known as Twitter) posts in question align with the self-professed Christian conservative Brown’s religious and personal beliefs but clash with the NAR Code of Ethics. Though Brown has responded several times in videos, as you’ll see below, she mainly explains her views to provide transparency, rather than apologizing.
How do you draw the line between religion, politics, and what is interpreted as hate speech? This is where it gets tricky indeed. One agent’s religious views can very easily be offensive to the LGBTQ+ community, as is the case for a couple of Brown’s likes and comments. But it’s her religion, some of you might be saying to yourselves.
That’s precisely why the takeaway from this should be that you shouldn’t post, comment on or like what you see on social media — because even the most well-intentioned agent can end up losing business, being held back from opportunities or find themselves in a very public mess.
This is the perfect cautionary tale for why religion and politics (an increasingly blurring line) simply have no place in real estate. Let’s dig deeper into what those social media posts were, what happened, how the industry responded and what we can all learn from it.
What are the qualifications, and how did she violate them?
To be deemed eligible to run for NAR elected office, a potential candidate must meet the required criteria as of June 1 of the year before the year in which their potential election would be held. Those criteria include:
- No personal bankruptcy pending or discharged within the past seven years
- No personal foreclosures within the past seven years
- Credit score at or above 650
- No current delinquent tax filings and/or payments
In her own words (detailed in the video above), Brown’s ineligibility wasn’t because she did not meet financial or criminal background checks and the other detailed requirements listed inside the written policy; it was her social media activity on X that ended her ultimate journey toward NAR presidency.
Brown was held back from NAR leadership for what an internal committee (here’s the 2023 Credentials and Campaign Rules Committee) determined was inappropriate social media behavior by a leader.
To “cure” the situation, Brown did two things. First, she deleted the offensive posts, and second, at the behest of NAR’s legal counsel, she says in the video above that she waited to respond until Aug. 1, 2023, in video form.
When Inman reached out to NAR for comment, a spokesperson said in an email,
“To respect confidentiality, we are not able to discuss matters related to specific candidates. Generally speaking, the Candidate Audit Workgroup (CAWG), which is a subcommittee of the Credentials and Campaign Rules Committee (CCRC), reviews applications along with audits and background for each candidate. If the CAWG determines there are any material issues that may prevent a candidate from being deemed eligible, they disclose that to the candidate and the CCRC, who determines candidate eligibility.”
The offensive posts
Back in 2020, NAR had its hands full trying to handle Code of Ethics complaints as agents and Realtors collectively lost their ability to stay out of the political fray unfolding on social media during lockdown.
To address the onslaught of unprecedented unprofessional and offensive posts and comments by many Realtor members, NAR adopted Standard of Practice 10-5. If you are making the connection to the name of the watchdog group TenDashFive, you would be correct.
Standard of Practice 10-5 Realtors must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. (Adopted and effective November 13, 2020, Amended 1/23)
On Sept. 12, Brown posted a video explaining her tweets and the context around her activity. Because it contains sensitive language and topics, the video is a “Watch only on YouTube.” To watch the full video, please click this link.
It is important to note that in this video, Brown gives key context about these tweets and that the tweets have been deleted. The context provided below is based on the information Brown has provided.
TenDashFive posted screengrabs on Instagram on Sept. 21, 2023, illustrating the social posts that Brown allegedly interacted with on social media. Many of the posts do not have official screengrabs, as Brown deleted the original posts and content.
After its initial post, TenDashFive also shared a clip from the main video of Brown (which, again, she posted herself) confidently defending and explaining her viewpoints, which are rooted in her religious beliefs.
Tweet 1: Drag Queen Show
“You are a sick pervert if you are taking your children to a drag queen show.”
Brown “liked” this comment that someone else posted which implies that people who go to drag shows with children, much less those who participate in them, are perverts, which is offensive to the LTBTQ+ community and could be construed as hate speech.
In her defense video, she said that she liked the comment because, as she put it, “I am a parent. I do not believe children should be in sexualized situations.” Brown also added that she personally had been to drag shows, but, again, she does not think they are appropriate for children.
Tweet 2: Coronavirus / 2nd Amendment
The comment below was made by another person in an X conversation that Brown was following. Because she only “liked the comment,” she describes her involvement in this conversation as similar to listening in on a conversation at a bar, rather than having a direct conversation at her table.
“You don’t need those AR15s *B*t*h, after seeing what you cowards were willing to do to me because you were scared of a 99.99 percent survivable virus. I think I need full autos, rockets, claymores, night vision, you name it.”
In her defense video, she said that she supports the Second Amendment and personal freedoms and that is why she was following this conversation between two other people. She admits that she shouldn’t have clicked like on this comment.
This violent comment calls for the use of automatic weapons and civil unrest. It is offensive to anyone who lost a loved one to COVID-19 because the virus wasn’t 99.99 percent survivable for all.
Tweet 3: Morons in the White House
“Prepare for total economic collapse. These morons in the White House are about to destroy our country. This is not a drill.”
Brown liked this comment. In her explanation, she simply says she should not call anyone in the White House a moron.
Tweet 4: To The Hill‘s Pregnant Persons post about how to speak about individuals who are pregnant as persons
This comment is based on The Hill’s coverage of the use of “pregnant persons” to characterize pregnant individuals who may not identify as women.
“It’s women, you insufferable fools.”
This comment could be interpreted as hate speech and offensive to the LGBTQ+ community. Brown goes on to explain that the language of “pregnant persons” is disrespectful to women, in her opinion.
Tweet 5: Time’s post: How do you talk to your kids about the assassination of Soleimani?
The last comment Brown spoke about was a comment she made on Time magazine’s post about the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani had commanded the Quds Force since the late 1990s, serving in that role as “key architect” and “chief executor” of lran’s campaign of terrorism, assassinations and violence throughout the Middle East, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
“It’s not hard. I explained that terrorists who murdered thousands of their own people, plus 600 of ours, plus go after our embassy in another sovereign nation deserve to die.”
In addition, on Oct. 1, 2023, TenDashFive posted yet another screen grab of a 2018 retweet by Brown about running over protestors who are blocking roads. The original post came from a popular X account, @jburtonxp, which promotes extreme alt-right content. This tweet was not mentioned in Brown’s explanation video and, to our knowledge, was not part of her review for First VP.
NAR and Brown’s complicated relationship
NAR has been embroiled in its own sexual harassment scandal, so it’s hard to keep up with all the layers of drama rolling out every few days as more folks come forward. Brown has repeatedly been quoted in New York Times stories and offered her own opinions about current NAR events on her YouTube channel.
Brown was quoted in Debra Kamin’s shattering New York Times piece published Aug. 26, 2023, about the sexual harassment accusations. She said she was sad that NAR’s reputation was taking a bruising, and she described a culture where leaders are expected to fall in line and even sign a pledge that includes a promise to report those who disparage the organization.
“I hate to see my organization suffer because of the actions of a few,” said Leigh Brown, 48, a prominent North Carolina Realtor who served as N.A.R.’s vice president of advocacy in 2021.” — New York Times
On Sept. 7, amid many agents protesting NAR and asking the very personal question of whether they still want to be a member of NAR, Brown posted a video showing her support of the organization and gave a very impassioned plea to stand by your R brand.
“Nobody’s perfect; one perfect man lived in the history of humanity and his name was Jesus, and he wasn’t a Realtor.” — Leigh Brown
On Sept. 15, Brown launched a new educational effort to petition for changes to the process of screening and acceptance of candidates. Brown has many supporters and a very engaged core audience. Her audience believes she was unfairly disqualified for leadership and that she deserves a second chance at the First VP candidacy.
This website, called www.lettheboarddecide.com, details how to change the screening process and features a petition to ask her to be reconsidered for the First VP position.
Finally and most recently, on Oct. 6, Brown was interviewed by Kamin to react to the exit of Anywhere and RE/MAX from NAR; she did not hold back her personal opinions about the current leadership at NAR:
“We’re in a perfect storm,” said Leigh Brown, a North Carolina broker who serves on N.A.R.’s national board of directors, of the issues now surrounding the organization. “N.A.R. is bloated, and its staff is arrogant. And at the same time, its membership is trying to figure out if they can function without N.A.R. we’re defending whether or not our business model works for the average consumer.” — NYT
Religious and political views divide groups; they do not unite them
As a real estate professional, passing judgment on a public social platform about someone else’s lifestyle, faith or political beliefs is not part of your job. Those are personal choices.
Your decision to engage in potentially explosive topics online has repercussions, like public embarrassment, losing business, getting fined if a formal complaint is filed and you are found guilty, and even being unable to run for elected positions.
That’s why religion and politics (an increasingly blurring line) have no place in real estate.
How other people choose to love, live, marry, dress and treat their bodies is not your business. Your business is selling homes. Your job is to have an opinion on real estate. It’s a pretty simple and foolproof marketing plan and a straightforward way to follow the Realtor Code of Ethics and stay out of trouble online.
In a sentence: Your personal beliefs don’t mix with real estate; you should separate religion and politics from your marketing.
As a leader and NAR Code of Ethics trainer, I would have hoped that Brown’s social media would be a shining example of an ethical online presence rather than a textbook example of what not to do.
Please take note of her hard-learned lesson so you can avoid it yourself.
Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram.