Arizona public schools chief John Huppenthal broke down in tears Wednesday at a press conference to address inflammatory and offensive comments he made under anonymous pseudonyms online.
Huppenthal apologized several times for the comments made on several blogs, in which he called welfare recipients “lazy pigs,” compared Planned Parenthood to the Nazis, and derided Spanish media. But he did not heed to calls for his resignation as the Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.
At the press conference, Huppenthal said the purpose of meeting with reporters was to “repudiate” and “renounce” the “hurtful” comments. “They’re not what is in mind, they don’t reflect the love that is in my heart,” he said.
The conference was called after reports by local media revealed Huppenthal made the comments under the pseudonyms Falcon9 and Thucydides as recently as 2013, and going back to 2010. Huppenthal drew harsh criticism after he acknowledged that he was behind the comment last week.
The comments made under the cloak of anonymity give an unfiltered look into Huppenthal’s political convictions.
On people who receive public assistance, he wrote:
“Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV’s (typical of “poor” families).”
On Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, he wrote:
“It was Darwin, not Hitler, who named the Germans the master race. It was Darwin who expressed approval of eliminating both Jews and Africans. Hitler worked to eliminate the Jews. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood was given the job of eliminating African-Americans. Hitler fed 6 million Jews into the ovens. Sanger has fed 16 million African-Americans into the abortion mills.”
On Spanish-language media, he wrote:
“We all need to stomp out balkanization. No Spanish radio stations, no Spanish billboards, no Spanish TV stations, no Spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English.”
Huppenthal, a Republican, has been in public office in different capacities since he was first elected to the Chandler City Council in 1984. He served in the Arizona State Senate and the Arizona House of Representatives before assuming his role in the Arizona Department of Education in January 2011.
During his bid for superintendent, Huppenthal campaigned on halting a Mexican-American studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which he said violated a state law (which he helped to pass while in the state senate) prohibiting classes aimed at a specific ethnic group. The law is being challenged in a federal court.
Anita Fernandez is a professor at Prescott College and has been active in fighting Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies as the Director of the Xican@ Institute for Teaching and Organizing, which offers seminars for teachers from across the country who want to learn the philosophy behind Tucson’s Mexican American studies program.
Fernandez told BuzzFeed she was not surprised to learn about Huppenthal’s comments, but found it disappointing and disturbing that they were coming from the highest-ranking official in education in Arizona.
“I think it’s completely irresponsible,” she said. “He not only didn’t take responsibility for the content of what he said, he even made a couple of comments where he said that wasn’t really what was in his mind or his heart. So, just that idea that he’s not even connected to what he is saying is another disturbing factor about this being the individual in charge of our educational system and basically all of our children.”
“Hearing his anti-Latino sentiments really doesn’t give our community a lot of hope about him really advocating for our children,” she added.
On Wednesday, community leaders including one of Huppenthal’s predecessors, Lisa Graham Keegan, a Republican, and the president of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of commerce, Gonzalo de la Melena, called on Huppenthal to step down.
At the press conference, Huppenthal said he would not resign and would continue efforts to seek re-election.
“When your words are hurtful, the first thing you do is you understand how those words of hurtful,” Huppenthal said. “Then you apologize for those words. And then, more than ever, you dedicate yourself to service.”
When asked if he was remorseful, the superintendent started to cry and eventually walked away.
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