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State GOP probe on Fiore remarks inconclusive

Updated June 26, 2020 - 3:20 pm

The Nevada Republican Party’s probe into “racially charged” remarks opposing affirmative action reportedly made by Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore did not find any conclusive evidence of exactly what she said during a Clark County Republican Convention on June 6.

Citing “conflicting reports” and the absence of video or audio from the event, “it would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions,” Executive Director Jessica Hanson said in a statement this week.

“We appreciate the Councilwoman’s statement and apology,” she added. “We look forward to working towards reelecting President Trump in November.”

Fiore in a June 11 news conference apologized to anyone she offended, but repeatedly refused to clear up the record by telling reporters what she said at the convention. However, Niger Innis, a Black conservative activist, recalled that Fiore was opposing affirmative action and said something similar to, “If my white ass is qualified for a particular job, and your black ass is less qualified, then my white ass should get the job.”

The county party denounced Fiore’s comments as “racially charged” in a statement released after the convention, prompting the state party to investigate.

Trump 2020

State Republicans and Fiore have signaled they are ready to move on from the controversy caused by her comments and toward propelling President Donald Trump to victory in November.

Fiore used public mediums twice last week to underscore that her responsibility as the newly reelected Nevada GOP national committeewoman — she ran unopposed — was to secure a second term for Trump.

When she gave up her title as mayor pro tem during a City Hall news conference called June 16 to address the escalating furor over her convention comments 10 days earlier, she denied that her decision to step down from council leadership was related to the backlash.

Instead she described the move as necessary to concentrate on two emerging issues: bridging the racial divide in the community, and seeing to it that Trump retains office.

“And I can tell the rioters and all the bad actors here in our city and across the nation that they’ve made my job a whole heck of a lot easier, because the majority of Americans do not like riots, they do not like mayhem and they do not like this divide,” she said.

‘I have five months’

Two days later, she delivered a nearly identical message during a live interview with city spokesman David Riggleman inside the KCLV Channel 2 studio to preview her appearance on the city’s show, “Access City Council.”

“I don’t want to get it political, but we have five months,” she said. “And being the mayor pro tem, really, you have to be nonpartisan in this position, but as the Republican national committeewoman, I have five months to get Donald Trump reelected.”

The public declarations on Trump came during a turbulent week for Fiore in which she walked out of a council meeting June 17 after being criticized for present and past actions, including referring to a colleague as “colored” while in the state Assembly and her ties to controversial rancher Cliven Bundy.

And the declarations were also problematic: When city resources are used, as they were in both instances, “the content is supposed to focus on city-related topics and stay to that,” the city confirmed.

‘Made things worse’

Fiore is the subject of a recall effort in part because of her comments at the convention, which were publicly rebuked by the county GOP and colleague Councilman Cedric Crear, who reported that witnesses heard Fiore say: “I am a white woman and I should not lose my job because of their black asses.”

“For her to just brush it off and not say much about what’s been said the last two weeks, and more that she’s just going to stump for Trump, that just made things worse,” said Molly Taylor, an organizer of the recall effort.

But Keith Schipper, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign in Nevada, appeared to welcome her involvement.

“Thousands of Nevadans are donating their time and effort to re-elect President Trump and we are grateful for every volunteer’s work to ensure victory for our Republican candidates up and down the ballot,” he said in a statement.

Fiore did not respond to messages seeking comment this week, and neither did state Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald and the Nevada campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

County GOP Chairman David Sajdak, whom Fiore called “a pandering idiot,” declined to comment when reached by phone.

Nextdoor post

Chance Bonaventura, a special assistant for Fiore’s Ward 6 office, had previously trumpeted the efforts of the current administration, but he denied this week that the tone had been political in nature.

In his official capacity, Bonaventura shared a lengthy post on the community website Nextdoor on April 21 that listed the ways that the Trump administration had been supporting the people of Nevada through the pandemic.

City staffers routinely publish information to the site to keep residents informed about services, transportation projects, city council meetings and more.

“The post you are referencing does not promote his campaign efforts; rather, it details the response efforts the executive branch and its subservient agencies are doing for the people of Nevada,” he said in a statement.

He noted that the post also included efforts undertaken by Gov. Steve Sisolak and that “saying our president’s name is not a violation of city policy.”

‘Open’ to talks on police reform

Fiore was vague during her June 16 new conference on plans to help repair communities stricken by racial division beyond a vow to host town halls and perform community outreach.

Bonaventura said that the councilwoman and her office “have always been open to discussing police reform and the horrific events that led to George Floyd’s death” in Minneapolis.

Four ex-officers have been charged in connection with the May 25 killing of Floyd, a Black man. Derek Chauvin, who is white and pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, faces the most serious charge: second-degree murder.

Bonaventura said that Fiore had held “multiple meetings with concerned parties” and her office will continue to be open to discuss “reasonable solutions.”

Even as statewide restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people have indefinitely postponed town halls and public meetings, the Ward 6 office “looks forward to supporting proactive initiatives presented by our Mayor & City Council,” he said.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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