Conservative icon Russell Pearce, Arizona’s former Senate President, knows all too well what it’s like to be at the center of controversy. Now as a radio talk show host he has once again energized the left with comments he made on his popular Saturday evening KKNT 960-AM radio program, The Russell Pearce Show, which provides a forum for Republican candidates and expression.
The brouhaha grew from the expected ire of state Democrat Party Executive Director DJ Quinlan to include pilers-on from within the Republican Party as they struggle to distance themselves from his comments and secure Independent votes in the upcoming General Election.
First out of the hatch to join the Dems was Mark Brnovich candidate for Attorney General. Pearce endorsed his incumbent, primary opponent. Brnovich jumped at the opportunity to issue a statement saying Pearce’s remarks “are unrepresentative of the Republican Party I know. The notion that government would force sterilization upon anyone is counter to everything I believe about individual liberty and contrary to the founding principles of a free nation,” adding, “comments that demean the plight of the poor, including women in the dual role of mother and economic provider, are not conservative; they’re cruel. And I reject them.”
So what has caused the uproar that united some statewide Republican candidates (named in this Arizona Republic article) to join with the Democrats in denouncing the conservative leader? He is reputed to have said, “You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations. Then we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.” He did not call for state-imposed sterilization.
Pearce was elected to a two-year term as First Vice Chair of the AZ Republican Party by a wide margin of state committeemen at their January 2012 meeting, carrying the strong endorsement of then-State Party Chairman, Tom Morrissey.
Now the current party chairman Robert Graham has accepted Pearce’s conciliatory resignation tendered late last night in this statement:
“As an unapologetic conservative, I’ve stood up for the rule of law and our constitutional freedoms. I love this great Republic, and have loved serving Arizona and my service with the Republican party. Recently on my radio show there was a discussion about the abuses to our welfare system. I shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author. This was a mistake. This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates.
I do not want the progressive left and the media to try to take a misstatement from my show and use it to attack our candidates. I care about the Republican party and its conservative platform too much to let them do that. Yet I have to recognize that hosting a radio show and the nature of the debates that we have had and will continue to have are incompatible with what our Party needs from its leadership team. For that reason, I am submitting my resignation as a Vice Chairman of the Republican Party. I will never back down from standing up for what I believe in and I will continue to fight for the principles that our founding generation risked their lives for. But I have no intention of being used as a distraction by the Democrats looking to escape responsibility for their failed policies. It is time to return the focus to where it belongs, and that is the direction that our state and country should be headed towards. Let’s get back to winning in November!”
The Honorable Russell Pearce, who has endured slings and arrows before, resigns rather than allow Republican statewide candidates to fail. The rest of us should keep our eyes on the ball, as First Amendment rights ensuring freedom of speech are being curtailed. Some Republican candidates who should be upholding them are joining with the most liberal elements to misconstrue and constrain them.