Long before he introduced Arizona’s controversial immigration law — SB-1070 — state Senate President Russell Pearce (R) has had to respond to allegations that he is a racist. These accusations have not only stemmed from his political crusade against undocumented immigrants; they are also a product of the company he has kept over the past several years. Last week, Fox 10 posted a lengthy 30-minute interview in which Pearce was forced to address his controversial ties — namely his relationship with J.T. Ready, one of “Arizona’s leading neo-Nazis.”
Pearce — who ordained Ready as an “elder” in the Mormon church and supported his unsuccessful City Council run — has always claimed that he had no knowledge of Ready’s controversial beliefs and affiliations. (Meanwhile, Bill Straus, regional director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League, claims to have met with Pearce and informed him on J.T. Ready and other neo-Nazis flocking to his anti-immigrant cause). Yet, in this interview, Pearce admits to taking Ready under his wing and bringing him into his family:
FOX 10: He says to say that you were a friend would be an understatement. [...] He’s saying that you took him under your wing and he says that there’s no doubt about that.
PEARCE: I think that’s probably a fair statement initially. [...] I had great hopes for J.T. in terms of just being a good patriot. And it wasn’t until years later that he brought to light that he had associations. [...] As a young man, I put my arm around him. I cared about J.T. But I will not support those kinds of activities. [...]
I’m a natural kind of lover of guys. I’m a hugger, kind of touchy feely kind of guy. I care about people, but I will not put up with misbehavior and improper conduct. I don’t care who you are. I think he had a lot of potential. But when he associated himself with those sort of organizations — he can’t do that and be a part of our family.
In a separate interview with Fox 10, Ready went as far as to call Pearce “a surrogate father” who “enlightened him.” “I more or less evolved from there,” explained Ready. “I didn’t really heed his word on staying more covert.”
Ready also claims that he was with Pearce’s son, Josh Pearce, when he got a tattoo of an iron eagle with a swastika on his neck and chest. Ready told Fox 10 that he talked Josh Pearce out of joining a skinhead group. Josh Pearce was recently sentenced to a year in the Arizona Department of Corrections for violating the conditions of his probation on a 2007 conviction for aggravated DUI.
When asked if he believes Russell Pearce is a racist, former state legislator Bill Konopnicki (R) — who feels that he was bullied by Pearce for voting against one of his immigration bills in 2007 — stated, “My personal opinion is I hope not, but some of the things that he has said would lead one to that conclusion.”
Watch Fox 10′s report: