By Albert Lin
The Republicans are at it again. A Nevada Assemblyman is under fire after a video surfaced on Monday in which he told a gathering that he would vote for slavery if his constituents demanded it.
“If that’s what they wanted, I’d have to hold my nose, I’d have to bite my tongue and they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head, but, yeah, if that’s what the constituency wants that elected me, that’s what they elected me for,” Jim Wheeler told members of the Storey County Republican Party at an August meeting. “That’s what a republic is about. You elected a person for your district to do your wants and wishes, not the wants and wishes of a special interest, not his own wants and wishes, yours.”
The YouTube video has since been removed by the user who posted it.
Fellow Republicans quickly denounced Wheeler. “Assemblyman Wheeler’s comments are deeply offensive and have no place in our society,” Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a fellow Republican, said in a statement. “He should retract his remarks and apologize.”
Another Republican, State Senator Michael Roberson, sent out the following tweets:
The comments by current Assemblyman Jim Wheeler are outrageous, they are embarrassing and they are just plain sad. Nevadans deserve better.
Michael Roberson (@SenMRoberson) October 29, 2013
It’s time for Jim Wheeler to find a new line of work.
Michael Roberson (@SenMRoberson) October 29, 2013
Wheeler, predictably, said his comments were taken out of context, and that he was merely making the point that he serves the voters of his district. He told the Associated Press: “Anyone who knows me knows that I could never vote for something like that,” he said. “It’s disgusting. It’s beyond disgusting. There is absolutely no room in my life for any bigotry.”
He told the Las Vegas Sun that he in fact would not cast his ballot for such a bill: “I don’t care if every constituent in District 39 wanted slavery, I wouldn’t vote for it. That’s ridiculous.”
On Tuesday morning, Wheeler posted the following apology to his website. (Yes, there is an apology in there, at the tail end of the 414-word statement.)
“The media is having a good time with a clearly facetious statement I made in a town hall meeting earlier this year. They’re attempting to spin an extreme example I used about supporting my constituents to accuse me of being racist. Anybody that knows me knows that’s absurd, and anyone that views the comments in context understands that the whole point of the example is that racism of any kind is something that I find completely unacceptable.
“During the meeting, I was asked how I would vote if I believed one way on an issue, and my constituents believed the opposite. I stated the truth that I believe, which is that in a Representative Republic I’m hired by the people to represent their views. I used an over-the-top example of something that I absolutely do not agree with, and even mentioned that to get me to vote for such a thing, my constituents would literally have to hold a gun to my head. In reality, that isn’t the case at all. If my constituents wanted to do something as outlandish as bring back an abhorrent system, then I simply couldn’t represent them anymore. They would remove me from office, or I’d have to resign.
“In the bill from the 2013 session that we were discussing, I’d heard from an unusually large number of constituents, and the comments were 3-1 in favor of the bill. That’s a very clear mandate, and it was enough for me to set my opinion aside and represent the voters of District 39. Despite the media spin that claims I don’t think for myself, I give careful consideration to the votes I cast, and I find that 99% of the time my constituents agree with me. That makes sensethey elected me because they know that my beliefs align with theirs.
“Unlike some legislators, I don’t believe that my Assembly seat is a platform for my personal issues. I occupy the people’s seat: It’s my job to represent them faithfully, as I have done. As long as my constituents agree with my positions, I’m confident that they’ll keep hiring me to do the job. And if they ever decided that they wanted me to advocate for an unacceptable issue, they’d have to find somebody else to bring that to the Assembly.
“If my comments were taken with offense by anyone, I sincerely apologize. I intended the statement as an extreme example of something unacceptable, and hope that’s how it’s taken.”
More of the Same
Members of the Republican Party are not strangers to offensive statements. Earlier in October, Buncombe Party (N.C.) Republican Party official Don Yelton called Blacks “lazy” and using the N-word on The Daily Show and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett compared same-gender marriage to incest. In June, Montgomery County (Ill.) Republican Party Chairman Jim Allen wrote an email blasting a biracial congressional candidatewho happens to be a Republican. In April, Saline County (Kan.) Commissioner Jim Gile used the term n——rigging. In March, Alaska Congressman Don Young referenced the “wetbacks” who would work on his family’s farm.
That’s to say nothing of the party’s efforts to pass stricter voter-ID laws and to ban same-gender marriage.