In response to a Southern Poverty Law Center article this week that some of his legislative emails contained evidence of “deep-seated bigotry,” former Senate President Russell Pearce yesterday denied ever writing anything racist or bigoted and said that he wouldn’t knowingly send out bigoted writing from another author.
However, legislative records show that Pearce forwarded emails to his supporters that equated Spanish speakers with cancer, lamented declining reproduction among white Americans and included information and links to websites that promote white supremacist and anti-Semitic views.
And even though he sent the information to his supporters, Pearce said he should not bear any responsibility for what other people write.
Pearce’s attitude that forwarding information in emails is not an endorsement is a sharp departure from the apology he issued in 2006 after sending out an anti-Semitic article from a website run by the neo-Nazi group National Alliance.
In that apology, Pearce claimed he did not know the background of the group.
“My heart is really hurt to think something like that would go out under my name… I was very embarrassed I didn’t have better diligence and read the whole article,” he wrote in a follow-up email to his supporters.
Pearce said yesterday that he doesn’t always read the entirety of the material he sends out.
“Sometimes, you don’t read it that way when you read something, and sometimes you don’t read every sentence,” he said.
Pearce made similar comments after he was questioned about the 2006 email.
The legislative emails that were recently uncovered, a selection from thousands obtained last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, were submitted Tuesday by the ACLU and other plaintiffs of Valle del Sol v. Whiting. The emails are an exhibit in the ACLU’s motion for preliminary injunction filed the same day to keep SB1070’s section 2(B) from going into effect.
Though the Supreme Court held that the provision was not preempted by federal law, the ACLU is trying to block the most controversial section of SB1070, which requires police officers to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally, partly on the basis that it will likely lead to racial profiling. The ACLU says Pearce’s emails prove that the law was crafted with racist intent.
In July 2011, the ACLU submitted a broad request for all of Pearce’s communications, notes and other documents pertaining immigration and SB1070 including the “perceived negative consequences of immigration” and documents containing the words “profiling,” “wetback” or “Mexican.”
On Wednesday, the SPLC’s Hatewatch blog seized on the court filing and highlighted racist statements from articles Pearce appears to have forwarded to supporters writing that the emails show “just how deep his loathing of immigrants runs”
Pearce told Arizona Capitol Times he has not seen the emails filed with the court, but defended the information he sent to his supporters.
“I’ve never used hateful language,” he said. “I don’t quote any information from people that I think are bad guys.”
Much of the extreme content in the exhibit comes from emails sent to the former Senate president. But in emails he sent to “Russell K. Pearce,” which appears to be the name of a mass-email listserv, Pearce forwards on articles written by conservative writers Frosty Wooldridge and Pat Buchanan, who the SPLC article characterized as “xenophobes.”
In January 2007, Pearce sent out an email titled “Invasion USA” that contained an unattributed article by Wooldridge.
“Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance? It’s like injecting yourself with cancer cells to see what will happen. It’s like importing leper colonies and hope [sic] we don’t catch leprosy,” the article read, in addressing the “myth” that “this is a nation of immigrants and they all add to America’s vitality.”
Though the SPLC has branded Wooldridge a nativist who opposes non-European immigration to America, Pearce defended him as “passionate” about the issues.
“I would never characterize anything that (Wooldridge) writes as bigotry. He is very passionate,” Pearce said. “I’ve forwarded lots of emails of Frosty’s that I thought were appropriate, that I thought had merit.”
But when read Wooldridge’s passage about comparing immigrants to cancer, Pearce said he “wouldn’t endorse that language there.”
Nonetheless, Pearce insisted that he shouldn’t be held responsible for what other people wrote, even if he is disseminating that writing.
“Frosty’s work should stand on its own… My words are my words. Someone else’s words are their words,” he said.
In May 2007, Pearce distributed an article by Buchanan that laments the growth of minority populations.
“What is happening to us?” the article asks. “An immigrant invasion of the United States from the Third World, as America’s white majority is no longer even reproducing itself.”
In an email to a fellow lawmaker urging support for legislation similar to SB1070, Pearce also cites information from and links to Rense.com – which publishes with titles like “The Jewish War on Free Speech,” “The Incredible Jewish ‘Holocaust’” and “How Zionism Infiltrated, Took Over America” – and the National Policy Institute, which professes to be dedicated to protecting White culture.
“Don’t [our children] deserve to live in a country akin to that of their ancestors?” the NPI website reads. “We issue reports that, in no uncertain terms, stands against the dispossession of America’s historic majority, whether through mass immigration and affirmative action or through the actions of Washington charlatans and the cultural industry.”
Though Pearce said he wasn’t familiar with NPI, he likened taking information and statistics from that organization and others to his occasional use of information from the Pew Hispanic Center.
“Even people that we don’t agree with sometimes do good work… Sometimes I don’t know their background, but when people come out with good information, I use it if I think it is valid information,” he said.
Omar Jadwat, one of the ACLU attorneys representing the plaintiffs in Valle del Sol v. Whiting, said that, while the ACLU isn’t pretending that Pearce authored everything in his emails, they are hoping to show that forwarding the information is a good indication that Pearce agreed with it.
“To have that amount of evidence going to racial animus going toward the case before we do any discover in the case is pretty striking… I think the sheer volume of what we are talking about here suggests that this is not accidental,” Jadwat said.