The Senate voted 24-3 to censure Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, today after she advocated for building gallows to hang and “make an example” out of traitors and threatened to “destroy” the careers of other Senators.
The bipartisan motion to censure was made by Sen. Majority Leader Rick Gray, R-Sun City, and stated the reasons for censuring Rogers are comments encouraging “violence against and punishment of American citizens,” and that Rogers, “damaged the reputation of the Arizona State Senate by her actions.” Minority Leader Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, seconded the motion.
No state Senator has been censured in years according to Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert. Rogers will not lose any legislative privileges.
Rogers made a speech at the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) on February 25 organized by white nationalist Nick Fuentes who Rogers called “the most persecuted man in America.” She told the crowd, “I’ve said we need to build more gallows. If we try some of these high-level criminals, convict them and use a newly built set of gallows, it’ll make an example of these traitors.”
Rogers did not respond to requests for comment.
Rogers also Tweeted a series of items calling Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “globalist puppet for Soros and the Clintons,” and a “typical liberal who doesn’t project strength,” among other things. Sen. President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, Gray, Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, Sen. Sony Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, and Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, signed onto a statement in support of Ukraine after Rogers’ Tweets gained attention.
“Freedom of speech is one of the most precious rights we have under heaven. This censure is nothing more than an attempt to limit my speech.” Rogers said while explaining her ‘no’ vote today. “I represent hundreds of thousands of people and the majority of them are with me and they want me to be their voice. You are really censuring them. I do not apologize. I will not back down, and I am sorely disappointed in the leadership of this body for colluding with the Democrats to attempt to destroy my reputation. In the end I rejoice in knowing I do and say what is right, and I speak as a free American regardless of the actions of this corrupted process today.”
Only Rogers, Petersen, and Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, voted no. Three other Senators, Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, and Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, were absent and did not vote.
“It pains us to have to do this, and we do support First Amendment freedom of speech. We absolutely do support it.” Fann said. “What we do not condone is members threatening each other, to ruin each other, to incite violence, to call us communists. We don’t do that to each other.”
“It pains us to have to do this, and we do support First Amendment freedom of speech. We absolutely do support it. What we do not condone is members threatening each other, to ruin each other, to incite violence, to call us communists. We don’t do that to each other.”
Senate President Karen Fann
An earlier draft of the Senate’s censure motion posted on social media by Rogers included language saying the censorship was also a result of “outrageous and patently absurd comments regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine” and “inciting general racial and religious discrimination,” but these lines were struck out and the main reason given was violent speech.
Rogers tweeted after the vote that those saying she called for violence are lying. Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said after the vote that Rogers’ suggestion of hanging people on gallows was threatening.
“I will personally destroy the career of any Republican who partakes in the gaslighting of me simply because of the color of my skin or opinion about a war I don’t want to send our kids to die in.” Rogers tweeted on Monday. She continued this morning, “Today is the day where we find out if the Communists in the GOP throw the sweet grandma under the bus for being white.”
Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, and Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, both voiced their disapproval of Rogers online with Shope calling the Tweets “bullshit” and Boyer calling them “looney tunes.”
“I don’t know that anybody knew how unhinged Wendy Rogers was when she won the last time around,” said Boyer on Monday. “If that truly was part of the party, I wouldn’t be part of the party.”
After Boyer voiced his disapproval of Rogers’ statements, she tweeted, “@PaulDBoyer I voted yes to your ESA bill. Remember that.” That was evidently not enough to stop Boyer. He responded, “So… I should stay silent on your insane and unhinged speeches and tweets .@WendyRogersAZ because you once voted for one of my bills? No thanks.?” Boyer said her comment, “goes to show what kind of legislator she is.”
Expectedly, Democrats in both chambers lambasted Rogers’ statements. On Monday, Rios used a point of personal privilege to criticize Rogers’ Tweets on the Senate floor. “Quite frankly the posts were antisemitic, anti-Ukrainian, and un-American.” Rios said. “Ukrainian people are displaced and they’re living in bomb shelters under invasion from a country that is bombing their hospitals and their schools, and to take this international crisis, and to use it as an opportunity to spew hate is unbefitting an Arizona state Senator.”
On the floor today, Rios said Rogers’ recent behavior is not an aberration and it is sickening. “I believe the Senator from LD6 has proudly shown us who she is. It’s not a sweet grandmother, it is someone who has gleefully called right nationalists patriots.”
Some Democrats went so far as to call for Rogers’ expulsion from the Senate, which would require 2/3 of the Senators. Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, came into the Senate to vote for the censure today, which is rare. He has been avoiding in-person participation this session because of Covid. He said of the vote, “I wish it was calling for expulsion.”
House Democrats including House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, called for Rogers’ resignation in a statement today.
Rep. Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson, one of the Arizona’s few Jewish lawmakers, condemned Rogers and thanked the Senate leadership from both parties for censuring her.
“When we have a member of the Legislature who is a Nazi sympathizer, who spreads anti-Semitic tropes, I ask every single one of you to not stay silent,” she said on the House floor as Reps. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix and Daniel Hernandez and Morgan Abraham, D-Tucson, stood behind her.
Hernandez brought up other recent antisemitic incidents, such as a neo-Nazi group leaving flyers at homes in a Catalina Foothills neighborhood Monday night and Russia bombing a synagogue and Holocaust memorial in Kyiv. Hernandez said some of her Republican colleagues have told her privately that Rogers doesn’t represent their party, but that they should call her out publicly.
“At a time (when) we have a senator who speaks at white nationalist conferences and talks constantly about how Jews control the media, about how Jews are to blame for everything, it’s time for all of us to speak up,” Hernandez said.
Senate Majority spokesperson Kim Quintero said in a text that there is currently no intention of expelling Rogers.
Several Legislators including Boyer called Rogers “fringe” and said she does not represent the Republican party, but Rogers has had mainstream Republican support – even if it is now waning.
Rogers was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and Governor Doug Ducey’s PAC spent around $500,000 in support of Rogers’ campaign. On Feb. 24, Ducey responded to his involvement in Rogers’ election and said, “She’s still better than her opponent Felicia French.”
In an emailed statement after Tuesday’s vote that didn’t mention Rogers by name, Ducey said, “Anti-Semitic and hateful language has no place in Arizona… I believe the vote taken today by the Arizona Senate sends a clear message: rhetoric like this is unacceptable in Arizona.”
Capitol Times Reporters Nathan Brown and Nick Phillips contributed to this report.