Critic Of Native American Prayer In Trouble With His Native American-Defending Law Firm


A right-wing blogger who criticized the Native American opening prayer at the Tucson memorial service as “ugly” has gotten in trouble at his day job — working for a law firm that also defends Native American rights.Here’s what happened:

Paul Mirengoff is a blogger for Power Line, a right-wing blog. In one characteristic December 28 blog post he compared Barack Obama and George W. Bush:

Moreover, and at least as importantly, Obama’s periodic belligerence and petulance must have reminded many of how gracefully Bush carried himself. Though significantly less popular as president than Obama, and more widely reviled, Bush never seemed to whine and rarely attempted to blame others. Unlike Obama, he was willing to praise his predecessor. And he steadfastly declines to criticize his successor.

Despite these criticisms, Mirengoff praised President Obama’s speech at the Tucson memorial, calling it “a brilliant, spellbinding, and fitting speech,” in a January 12 blog post.

But, in a post on the same day that has since been removed, Mirengoff explained his disapproval of the memorial service in general, calling it a “mixed bag.” Particularly, he cited the opening prayer by Carlos Gonzales, an associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and a member of the Pascua Yaqui Nation, who delivered a traditional Native American blessing.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: ‘We Will Heal’: The Memorial In Tucson]

Here’s what Mirengoff wrote, via MediaMatters:

As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to “the creator” but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

But it wasn’t just Gonzales’s prayer that was “ugly” under the circumstances. Before he ever got to the prayer, Gonzales provided us with a mini-biography of himself and his family and made several references to Mexico, the country from which (he informed us) his family came to Arizona in the mid-19th century. I’m not sure why Gonzales felt that Mexico needed to intrude into this service, but I have an idea.

In any event, the invocation could have used more God, less Mexico, and less Carlos Gonzales.

The next day, Mirengoff apologized in another blog post:

In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people, and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post.

Mirengoff was one of the many right-wing pundits to question Gonzales’ inclusion in the ceremony. But here’s the twist: Mirengoff is a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a law firm with an American Indian Law and Policy department.

Mirengoff himself is in the Labor and Employment practice, but his fellow partner, James Meggesto, wrote a response to the original post, describing himself “as an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.”

Meggesto wrote that he was “shocked, appalled and embarrassed” by Mirengoff’s post, and called it an “insensitive and wholly inappropriate criticism.” He continued that “as soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation.”

Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, also issued a statement:

We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. Mr. Mirengoff regrets his poor choice of words and agreed to remove his post.

Debra Cassens Weiss of the ABA Journal reports that Akin Gump spokeswoman Kathryn Holmes Johnson said the firm is now reviewing its social media policy.

h/t Right Wing Watch.

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