Nevada Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R), who the assembly’s Republican caucus selected as their choice to be its next speaker earlier this month, has a long history of racist, sexist and homophobic statements chronicled in a long list published by the Reno News Review. Among other things, as part of a broader statement of support for school vouchers, Hansen claimed that “[t]he relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies.” Indeed, according to the News Review, Hansen keeps a Confederate battle flag on his wall, which he says that he flies “proudly in honor and in memory of a great cause and my brave ancestors who fought for that cause.” He also “tends to use the term ‘Negro’ and often does not capitalize it.”
Hansen has also published several columns attacking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including one where he claims that “King’s private life was trashy at best. … King Jr. is as low as it gets, a hypocrite, a liar, a phony, and a fraud.” In another piece, he wrote that “[t]he lack of gratitude and the deliberate ignoring of white history in relation to eliminating slavery is a disgrace that Negro leaders should own up to.”
Nor does Hansen reserve his condemnations for African Americans. He’s argued that “women do not belong in the Army or Navy or Marine Corps, except in certain limited fields.” He’s criticized the “sexual revolution” and the “women’s liberation movement” for encouraging women “to act as foolishly as men.” And he also claims to have a strange obsession with gay child molesters. He once wrote that he’s “been keeping a rough tally on homosexual/heterosexual molesters as reported locally” and that this inquiry revealed that “and roughly half of all molestations involve homosexual men preying on boys.” As the News Review notes, “Hansen gave no details, nor did he publish his list, nor did he explain how he knew the sexuality of the alleged molesters.”
When incoming assembly members are sworn in, Republicans will enjoy a 25–17 majority over Democrats, all but ensuring that their choice for the speaker’s chair will preside over the chamber.
On Thursday, Hansen offered a tepid apology for his columns, accusing his critics of taking his words out of context:
I am deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans. It is unfortunate that these comments, made almost 20 years ago as a newspaper columnist and talk radio host, have been taken out of context and are being portrayed as intentionally hurtful and disrespectful. These comments were meant to be purposely provocative in various political, cultural and religious views. I have the utmost respect for all people without regard to race, gender, religious or political beliefs.
At least one high-profile Nevada Republican distanced himself from Hansen, however. U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) said that Hansen’s “past comments and positions on race, religion, and gender that have recently been reported give me great concern.” Heller added that “[t]hese comments were insensitive, wrong, and extremely offensive and insulting. Statements like these do not have a place in public discourse.”
Hansen resigned from his leadership position Sunday, releasing a statement saying, “For the greater good of the State of Nevada and the cause I support it is necessary for me to withdraw as Speaker Designee.” He goes on:
The tens of thousands of people who both read my columns and listened to my radio shows through two decades in the media know this has been a carefully orchestrated attack to remove a conservative Republican from a major leadership role in State government. The deliberate character assassination and the politics of personal destruction have totally distorted my views and record. Ultimately, this whole attack has very little to do with my views. The powers that be are planning a massive, more than one billion dollar, tax increase and I stood in the way as Speaker. I have already served two terms as an Assemblyman without any of these vicious attacks. It was only when I had risen to leadership that this smear campaign occurred. That is the real reason for this and it is vital the public understands that.