A Top Republican Is Forced to Resign After His Despicable Remarks About Poor People

Source: AP
Source: AP

The news: Arizona's second most powerful Republican has resigned his position after claiming that, given the power to do so, he would order Medicaid recipients to submit to forced sterilization.

The Arizona Republic reported Monday that former state senator and state GOP First Vice Chair Russell Pearce left his post Sunday evening after his despicable remarks started to become widely circulated. Here's the exact quote, pulled from Pearce's weekly talk radio show:

"You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants or tubal ligations ... Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."

In other words, people too poor to afford their own health care should be culled. Not OK.

The backlash: Democrats immediately slammed Peace, releasing a statement saying that the silence of top state GOP officials indicated a "cynical calculation that Russell Pearce and his brand of politics appeals to the most extreme elements of their electoral base." The state's Republican attorney general candidate Mark Brnovich, sensing how ugly this could get, denounced the remarks as "contrary to the founding principles of a free nation" and said Pearce's words were "not conservative; they're cruel. And I reject them." 

Ultimately, the controversy proved too much for the Arizona GOP, and Pearce is now out of a job.

American sterilization: Surprisingly enough, America has a long and sordid history of compulsory sterilization programs. In fact, the U.S. invented and perfected them. In the 1930s and '40s, over 30 U.S. states enacted some of the world's first eugenics-based forced sterilization programs, performing unethical procedures on around 65,000 people, mostly the mentally handicapped. 

The University of Virginia's Paul Lombardo notes that U.S. eugenicists like Harry Laughlin targeted people who were "feebleminded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf; deformed; and dependent." Laughlin warned of "defective persons" whose ability to reproduce posed "a menace to society." 

You know who else thought this way? The Nazis. Laws based on Laughlin's models were later enacted in Hitler's Germany, which gave him an award for the "science of racial cleansing" in 1936. The German program eventually resulted in the sterilization of up to 350,000 people.

So what was Pearce thinking? For a guy who denounces Obama as a "dictator," Pearce seems pretty eager to order unethical medical procedures performed on at least 1.3 million people (the number of Medicaid recipients in Arizona). But he also gets bonus Nazi points because every single one of the birth-control methods he specified are for women. So not only is this idea a massive human rights violation, it's violently misogynistic.

The rest of the Arizona GOP will now likely pretend that they weren't aware of Pearce's ugly, quasi-fascist extremism, but pretty much everyone has known he's a raving lunatic for years. As the Southern Poverty Law Center documented in 2012, Pearce regularly distributed emails with racist rants and conspiracy theories about immigrants and was a close friend of neo-Nazi mass murderer J.T. Ready. Pearce also wrote SB 1070, Arizona's incredibly controversial immigration law that enabled officers to racially profile the state's Latino population in search of undocumented immigrants. And on a charming final note, he once accused the victims of the Aurora, Colo., mass shooting of cowardice.

By the way, the Arizona Republic reports that Pearce is still collecting $85,000 in government pay, as well as a $76,000 state pension — so if he really wants to do something cruel to parasites living off the government, by taking his extremist views to their logical endpoint, he would have to castrate himself. 

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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