Rep. David Stringer apologized on the House floor today for inflammatory comments he has made about race.
Last year, the Republican from Prescott was twice recorded making comments about race and immigration, including that there aren’t “enough white kids to go around” in Arizona’s public schools and that African Americans “don’t blend in.”
“Issues that related to race and ethnicity are very sensitive in any setting,” he said today. “I believe, upon reflection, I have a duty to apologize to you as my colleagues.”
He said he has a deep personal respect for each of his House colleagues, and would never intentionally say or do anything to make them uncomfortable around him.
Following his most recent episode, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, asked him to resign as chair of the House Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee, which was later dissolved entirely. Stringer was also removed from the House Judiciary and Education Committees.
Still, not everyone was satisfied with the sanctions.
In December, Assistant Minority Leader Randy Friese said Stringer had already proven himself to be an ineffective legislator for his district and warned there would be a hyper focus on how Stringer interacted with his colleagues this session.
“Things that I have said are a deep concern to many of you,” Stringer said today, adding many of his colleagues had raised their concerns directly with him. “I want you to know that I am sorry.”
This is the first time Stringer has publicly apologized for his most recent comments, which were reported on by the Phoenix New Times in late November.
But he has sought to defend himself.
Just yesterday, Stringer sent a letter to his legislative colleagues blaming the “media filter making a mess of things” and inviting them to meet with him if his comments made them mad.
He expressed some regret in the letter – for “not recognizing the trap and simply walking away.”
“We all know people who say everything right, but whose deeds are lacking and whose hearts are closed by real bigotry,” he wrote. “They are the real problem when we talk about these issues.”
In the letter, he argued his comments had been taken out of context and conceded only that he “wasn’t choosing my words carefully in anticipation that they would be selectively excerpted.”
At the conclusion of his remarks today, Bowers addressed him directly. He said words hurt, and he was grateful to Stringer for recognizing that now and saying so on the floor.
“We will not always agree. We don’t have to believe the same,” Bowers said. “But words matter, and I hope you, all of you will correct me and that we will correct ourselves as we do the people’s work here.”