Plenty of others have commented on the awful remarks penned by Assembly Speaker-designate Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, in the Sparks Tribune, when he was a regular columnist and worked as a radio talk-show host. For those who haven’t read them, the Reno News & Review’s Dennis Myershas done the hard spade work of unearthing the old columns.
But today, after Gov. Brian Sandoval distanced himself from Hansen’s comments, after Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford denounced them (see below) and after they went national in the Washington Post (twice!), the Huffington Post and ThinkProgress, Hansen apologized.
Sort of. Here’s what he said:
“I am deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans. It is unfortunate that these comments, made almost 20 years ago as a newspaper columnist and talk radio host, have been taken out of context and are being portrayed as intentionally hurtful and disrespectful. These comments were meant to be purposely provocative in various political, cultural and religious views. I have the utmost respect for all people without regard to race, gender, religious or political beliefs.”
“I am committed to showing that actions are much louder than words and my office will always have an open door to all backgrounds and political viewpoints. This will not distract us from finding solutions to building a brighter and more prosperous Nevada.”
That’s not so much an apology as an attempt to weasel out of some incredibly offensive remarks, and an abject avoidance of the personal responsibility that Republicans often say we need more of these days. What Hansen needs is a real apology. Perhaps I can help. Why not something more like this:
“I am deeply sorry for the incredibly offensive, thoughtless, racist, homophobic and sexist remarks I made when working as a newspaper columnist. Whether they were made 20 years ago, or 20 minutes ago is no matter. The context is irrelevant. The intent behind what I wrote could not possibly matter less. Quite simply, these words — and the ugly thoughts behind them — have no place whatsoever in modern society, and I completely, totally and categorically repudiate them. Although I personally don’t believe in biological evolution, I have, in fact, evolved intellectually on this issue, and those offensive words and the dark thoughts behind them no longer reflect my thinking. In fact, I am utterly embarrassed and ashamed that they are associated with my name in any way. I have tried in more recent days to cultivate an attitude of respect for all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs. That is the way I will always conduct myself in public life, if the voters see fit to accept my apology, look beyond these reprehensible remarks and continue to invest their trust in me as their servant in the Nevada Assembly.”
Yes. I think that works nicely.
In the meantime, here’s what Sandoval had to say about Hansen’s remarks:
“I wholeheartedly disagree with Assemblyman Hansen’s past public statements on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. This abhorrent kind of speech is unacceptable. He will have to answer questions regarding his previous statements himself.”
As the Democratic leader of the State Senate, and more importantly as a father and citizen of Nevada, I wholeheartedly condemn Speaker-designate Ira Hansen’s racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks. I am saddened that I once again find myself in a position where I have to explain to my children why and how someone who was elected to office in our home state would make such antiquated and bigoted comments. Mr. Hansen has stated that his words were meant to be “provocative.” They certainty provoke, but more than that, they are offensive.
The Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus is one of the most diverse caucuses in the nation, with male and female members belonging to the African American and Hispanic communities, the LGBT community, and multiple religious communities. Our caucus reflects the cultural diversity of Nevada, and we will continue to condemn remarks like the ones unearthed today. We are committed to representing the communities to which we belong. Moreover, we will represent all Nevadans to foster an inclusive, accepting environment for everyone.”
UPDATE: Today (Nov. 21), Assembly Minority Leader-designate Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, added her voice to the issue.
“As a mom and grandmother, a legislator who represents a melting pot of constituents in Southern Nevada, and the Assembly Democratic Leader, I find the comments that Ira Hansen has made over the years unforgivable. His views on women in society, race, and members of the LGBTQ community are offensive, and the fact that he cannot see that and simply issued an insincere apology to those who were offended—not for actually writing or holding those views—really is unbelievable,” said Assembly Democratic Leader Marilyn Kirkpatrick.
“These awful comments make me question Mr. Hansen’s ability to lead the Nevada Assembly. I also question what’s wrong with a growing number of Assembly Republican Caucus members regarding their own views on race, gender, and tolerance.”