By Julissa Catalan
John Huppenthal—Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction—gave an emotional public apology on Wednesday for anonymously making racist comments on a blog.
Huppenthal spoke at a news conference to a packed house in the Board of Education’s meeting room.
His tear-filled apology lasted about half hour, before the republican lost his composure when speaking about his long-time assistant, and the effects his comments had on her.
“We can imagine the emotional impact. I have talked to people who have been hurt by the hour,” Huppenthal said. The person I feel most — to the point of my own tears — is my assistant Merle. She has been with me for …. ”
He broke down completely and left the stage.
Earlier this week, it was discovered that Huppenthal had been anonymously posting on both conservative and liberal blogs—on state computers—using multiple pseudonyms (such as Falcon9 and Thucydides) for years now.
Huppenthal maintains that he made the comments on his home computer during off-work hours.
One comment that is being heavily criticized was posted back in 2011 when Huppenthal first took office.
“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).”
In another post, he referenced former state Sen. Russell Pearce, who was behind that anti-immigration law, saying:
“No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv, no spanish newspapers,” he wrote. “This is America, speak English.”
Liberal bloggers have suspected Huppenthal of this for months, saying they traced the pseudonyms back to the IP address at the Arizona Department of Education.
Many are calling for Huppenthal to resign and also drop out of the August 26 primary election.
“His comments are extremely disrespectful of the people the state superintendent serves,” said Lisa Graham Keegan. “Most of what you do in that job is enforce equal access to education. More than a third of families in Arizona receive assistance because they can’t make ends meet.”
Keegan, is a Republican who is also a former state schools superintendent and continues to be an education advocate.
“His posts … reflect poorly on how our state views public education,” added David Schaefer, president of the governing board in the Cave Creek Unified School District.
“He has been in public service long enough to know he is held to a higher standard and somehow continues to use poor judgment. This provides us a window into the real person we have placed in a position of authority and responsibility.”
Officials announced this week that Huppenthal has no plans to resign from his current position and will still run in the upcoming Republican primary.
Huppenthal will face conservative republican Diane Douglas as a primary challenge. Democrats David Garcia and Sharon Thomas are in the race as well.