CARSON CITY — The Reno-Sparks NAACP is asking the Nevada State Assembly Republican Caucus to reconsider its recent unanimous election of Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, as speaker after questionable comments attributed to him were reported by a Reno newspaper.
“We understand that the caucus has many newly elected members who may not be as familiar with Mr. Hansen’s past as we are,” said branch President Jeffrey Blanck. “They need to know he has beaten the drum of intolerance for decades.
“We do not ask anyone to take our word for it,” he said. “Take his words. A detailed compendium of his racist, bigoted, and homophobic views has been posted online and may be accessed via the Reno-Sparks NAACP’s website at RenoSparksNAACP.org.”
In an email response, Hansen said his comments made as a newspaper columnist and talk radio host almost 20 years ago were taken out of context, and 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,” he said.
The Reno News & Review unearthed the questionable comments made by Hansen.
Reporter Dennis Myers, in a story published Thursday, combed through columns written by Hansen for the Sparks Tribune starting in 1994.
Among the comments unearthed in the report were these comments about African-Americans.
Myers says that Hansen wrote: “The relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies. For American blacks, being denied choice and forced to attend the failing and inferior government school system is a form of involuntary servitude. Let’s call it what it truly is — educational slavery.”
The story and comment was picked up and reported by Salon.
Gov. Brian Sandoval issued this statement after being asked for comment on Hansen’s past 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.”
Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, who said via Twitter that Hansen’s comment “literally makes me nauseous,” later issued a statement by email saying that he condemned his “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,” Ford said. “Mr. Hansen has stated that his words were meant to be ‘provocative.’ They certainty provoke, but more than that, they are offensive.
“Our caucus reflects the cultural diversity of Nevada, and we will continue to condemn remarks like the ones unearthed today,” he said.
Hansen said his comments were not meant to be intentionally hurtful or disrespectful.
“I am deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans,” he said. “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.”
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.