Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal cried and apologized for his anonymous blogs Wednesday, but a former schools chief who called for his resignation said she wasn’t convinced.
“I don’t mind getting beat up, I’ve been in elected office for a long time, it comes with the territory, that doesn’t bother me. But what really bothers me is my blog comments were hurtful,” Huppenthal said.
He said he has no intention of resigning the post to which he was first elected in 2010 and that he will not drop his bid for reelection this year. Then he started to explain how his comments had been especially hurtful to his Chief of Staff Merle Bianchi, a longtime aide.
“The person I feel most, to the point I’m here, is my assistant Merle. She’s been with me . . .” Huppenthal said, trailing off and choking up before leaving the room.
Huppenthal’s hastily-called press conference took place only an hour before former Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan was scheduled to talk to reporters about her criticism of Huppenthal. She previously had called for him to resign. During her press conference, Keegan said Huppenthal was singing a different tune last week when she confronted him about the posts, saying he was adamant there was nothing wrong with them.
Keegan, who had called the blog posts “deeply horrific,” was skeptical about Huppenthal’s public apology on Wednesday.
“I have to say that’s a different attitude than he demonstrated when I spoke to him last week,” she said.
Keegan, who has known Huppenthal for 20 years, said she was sick and surprised to see his comments and caused her to question her own judgment. The controversy “shifted the nature of our relationship forever,” she said.
“I think that people are reeling, I think they’re trying to understand what happened here,” Keegan said.
She said she and former Schools Superintendent Jaime Molera, both Republicans like Huppenthal, heard nothing in his apology to make them change their minds. Molera was not able to attend the press conference.
“The No. 1 issue for the person who holds the job of superintendent of public instruction is deep respect and community with the people that we serve,’Keegan said. “John Huppenthal’s comments have violated that sacred bond.”
Huppenthal had predicted last week that the controversy would blow over in two weeks, but revelations about new secret posts intensified the controversy this week. Conservative blogger Greg Patterson published previous comments Huppenthal had left on Espresso Pundit as Falcon9, one of the monikers he used for posting comments, some of which called for an end to the balkanization of America and doing away with Spanish-speaking media.
Huppenthal said he was renouncing the comments, one of which was: “I don’t mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English. And, I’m not being humorous or racist. A lot is at stake here.”
He also opined in May 2011 that fewer Caucasians are working now that Hispanics have left. “No money and no one is stealing it,” he wrote as Falcon9.
Huppenthal said the comments were not meant in mean spirit but simply to air important issues. He said that is why he wrote, “This is America, speak English.”
“I feel the key to opportunity for our students is the ability to read, write and speak English,” he said, adding that’s why his office has pushed to help ensure that students achieve fluency.
But that is only part of what he wrote.
“We are condemning ourselves to a second rate future if we don’t reestablish the melting pot with a strong flow of immigrants engaging in economic activity, not crime,” reads one posting.
“We need to stomp out balkanization,” he continued. “No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers.”
Huppenthal conceded his motive for posting is no excuse.
“That does not set aside that that comment that I made on that issue was hurtful,” he said. “And I renounce that comment.”
Separately, he wrote that “Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV’s (typical of “poor” families).” But Huppenthal insisted that the comments represent “a tremendous bias towards opportunity as opposed to providing, just providing.”
For at least four years Huppenthal posted comments under pseudonyms on various blog sites on a host of issues. But the school superintendent’s screen of anonymity came crashing down this month when a blogger traced the I-P address of the sender back to the state Department of Education.
Huppenthal said the comments were simply his effort to spur debate on important issues.
He insisted nothing he wrote makes him unfit for his job — or convinces him he should not try to get another four-year term.
He also said he never made the comments in hopes of getting support from the Tea Party elements of the Republican Party. He pointed out he actually has been at odds with that group because he backs the state keeping the Common Core academic standards; Diane Douglas, his primary foe, opposes them.
During the press conference, Huppenthal did not address another controversial post traced to him, one who said “it was Darwin, not Hitler, who named the Germans the master race” and that it was Darwin “who expressed approval of eliminating both Jews and Africans.” He also said that while Hitler worked to eliminate the Jews that Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood who “has fed 16 million African-Americans into the abortion mills.”
But he had previously put out a prepared statement saying that Sanger “was at the heart of a eugenics movement,” though “in hindsight I do regret my choice of certain inflammatory words.’
Includes information from reporter Howard Fischer of Capitol News Services