Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce is known for many things.
He was a driving force behind the controversial Arizona immigration law SB1070, which critics say targets Hispanics and will lead to racial profiling.
In 2006, Pearce sent an Email to friends with an article from a neo-Nazi tract vilifying Jews and African-Americans. (When his Email became public, Pearce said he hadn’t read the full article.)
But Pearce has never been known for his sense of humor — and that’s not t likely to change with the “joke” he recently told about what would happen if President Obama visits Arizona.
One note of context: during the president’s 2009 visit to Phoenix, where he addressed the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars, armed men milled around outside the hall, including one carrying a semi-automatic version of a U.S. military assault rifle. The man with the assault rifle was a member of a Phoenix-area church that also expressed a less-than-welcoming posture toward the nation’s first Black president.
The day before Obama’s visit, Steven Anderson, pastor of the Faithful World Baptist Church, explained that he wasn’t about to “pray for God to give [Obama] a good lunch tomorrow, while he’s in Phoenix, Arizona. Nope. I’m not going to pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell.”
To be clear, Pearce is not a member of Anderson’s church. But, he is certainly aware of the hate-talk and prayers for the president’s death that filled the airwaves in Phoenix during and after the president’s visit. It’s a climate Pearce continues to stoke. In late November, Pearce told a crowd that Obama had committed treason when the president “sided with a foreign government” against the United State by opposing SB1070.
In a few weeks, Pearce will be sworn in as president of the Arizona State Senate. And that’s no joke.