John Huppenthal, the Arizona Republican official who earlier this month confessed to being a prolific and nasty anonymous commenter on local politics blogs, apologized Wednesday for his bigoted online writings during an emotional press conference that ended with him walking out of the room in tears.
“I am here today to apologize for my blog comments,” Huppenthal said at the start of the press conference. “There have been a lot of discussions in recent days, including today, on my blog comments. I don’t mind getting beat up, I’ve been in elected office for a long time, it comes with the territory. That doesn’t bother me. What does bother me, what really bothers me, is that my blog comments were hurtful. I’m here today because of those hurtful blog comments, my blog comments. I’m here today to repudiate those blog comments, I’m here to renounce those blog comments. They are not what is in my mind, they don’t reflect the love that is in my heart, and they especially don’t reflect the actions of myself and especially my employees in this agency over the preceding years.”
Huppenthal, who serves as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and is a former member of the state legislature, has admitted to writing hundreds of comments under pseudonyms on a number of local political blogs. Over the years, as TPM has previously reported, Huppenthal criticized President Obama for “rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV’s (typical of ‘poor’ families),” flirted with birtherism, compared Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger to Adolf Hitler, and urged people to “stomp out” Spanish-language television stations and newspapers in America.
At his press conference Wednesday, Huppenthal was asked in particular about his comments regarding people on public assistance.
“I think a lot about economics, and how do we create opportunity, how do we enable people who are on poverty, who are on welfare, how do we give them the opportunity to move?” he said. “Those philosophies, that economics, in no way, shape, or form excuses the way that I expressed those sentiments. In no way, shape, or form. That’s why I repudiate those blog comments, and I not only repudiate them, I apologize for them. It is ok to talk about policy, it is not ok to talk about people.”
Huppenthal is up for re-election this year, and television station KTVK reported this week that calls are mounting for him to resign. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry last week canceled an awards show that was planned to honor Huppenthal.
At the very end of Wednesday’s press conference, Huppenthal said he had talked to people who had been hurt by his comments. Struggling to get words out, he brought up his assistant.
“She’s been with me for –” Huppenthal said, before choking up, and then walking out of the room.
Watch a clip from the very end of the press conference: