This post originally appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News. Read the original post, and add your comments, here: Walter Rubel: Pearce did right thing in asking for resignation of spokesperson
Posted: 03/29/2014 4:11 PM
I had a better column than this one written and ready to go Thursday night, but had to tear it up and start over Friday morning when Rep. Steve Pearce did the right thing and asked for the resignation of newly hired spokesperson Rebekah Stevens.
Stevens, who is vice chairwoman of the Grant County Republican Party, was announced Tuesday as the new press secretary for Pearce, and outed a day later as the anonymous blogger behind the PolitixFireball website.
When contacted Wednesday by Sun-News reporter Steve Ramirez, Pearce chief of staff Todd Willens refused to confirm that Stevens was, in fact, the person behind the hate-filled website, but did confirm that she has been told in no uncertain terms to stop it.
Pearce fessed up in an interview later Wednesday with the Albuquerque Journal, telling reporter Michael Coleman, “I want kids working in these offices that have passion for what they’re doing. It’s easier to train restraint than energy and enthusiasm. We always look for work attitudes and work ethics. You can’t train those things.”
Unfortunately for Pearce, while it may by easy to “train restraint,” it is impossible to do so retroactively. And the absolute lack of restraint demonstrated by excerpts from the PolitixFireball website should have been a red flag for Pearce from the beginning.
I’ve never read PolitixFireball, and won’t get the opportunity to now, given that it has now been taken down. But, excerpts like this provided by ProgressNowNM.org give you the gist: “Obama not Satan, but then most in Germany thought Hitler was a great guy too.”
Other posts suggest that it is “time to be racist” and that all Muslims are motivated by blood lust. One post mocked Holocaust victims with the insensitive observation, “I know the Jews went up in smoke …”
“They are not things I would have said,” Pearce told the Journal.
Pearce is now, has always been and always will be a stalwart supporter of the people of Israel. So why would he select as his official spokesperson someone who has provided a platform for such anti-Semitic garbage?
Why would he select as his conduit to the press someone who referred to former Sun-News Santa Fe bureau reporter Milan Simonich as convicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevich? Simonich is still a working member of the New Mexico press corps, now reporting for the Santa Fe New Mexican.
For more than a decade, Pearce has been incredibly self-disciplined in building a reputation as a congressman who reliably votes with the most conservative wing of his party, but comports himself more as a moderate. Why would he select an Internet flamethrower to be his official voice?
By Friday, Pearce had decided that Stevens had become a “distraction.”
“I hold myself and my staff to the highest level of accountability, and any distractions that hinder my service to New Mexicans must always be addressed,” he said in a press release.
I understand that Stevens and other hate-bloggers on both sides of the political spectrum have a constitutional right to spew whatever vitriol they want. I’m not suggesting that such blogs should be banned or that Stevens should not be able to find employment. I have no problem with her leadership position with the Grant County Republican Party.
But, she was the official spokesperson for the only U.S. House member from southern New Mexico, her salary paid by the taxpayers.
Posts on Stevens’ blog were so inappropriate that her Twitter account was frequently suspended. Her conduct was too outrageous for social media. But not, for a few days at least, for the hallowed halls of Congress.
Walter Rubel is editorial page editor of the Sun-News. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow @WalterRubel on Twitter.