Arkansas Republicans' comments on slavery, Muslims stir controversy

Reuters News

10/6/2012 7:51:29 PM - Reuters News

By Suzi Parker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark (Reuters) - Republicans in Arkansas are struggling to get past the controversy generated by a state lawmaker who wrote that slavery might have benefited blacks and a candidate who has advocated expelling Muslims from the United States.

The Republican politicians' comments have been roundly criticized and have created an opportunity for Democrats ahead of the November 6 election. Arkansas has a Democratic governor but has voted Republican in the past three presidential elections.

In his self-published 2009 book titled "Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative," state Representative Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro, Arkansas, writes that "the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise."

Hubbard, a retired teacher and Vietnam veteran who was elected to the statehouse in 2010, also wrote, "Wouldn't life for blacks in America today be more enjoyable and successful if they would only learn to appreciate the value of a good education?"

His book also says that blacks "are likely much better than they ever would have enjoyed living in sub-Saharan Africa."

Charles Fuqua of Batesville, Arkansas, is currently seeking a House of Representatives seat. His e-book "God's Law: The Only Political Solution" came out in April on Amazon.

"I see no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States," he writes in his book, according to The Arkansas Times newspaper.

Fuqua, an attorney, served as a state representative from 1995 to 1998 before losing a state senate race.

Neither Hubbard nor Fuqua could be reached for comment. Both are running for election in November.

The Republican Party of Arkansas denounced their comments and distanced itself from the two candidates.

"The reported statements made by Hubbard and Fuqua were highly offensive to many Americans and do not reflect the viewpoints of the Republican Party of Arkansas," state party chairman Doyle Webb said in a statement on Saturday.

But Webb also blamed Democrats for drawing attention to the two books, which he called "distractions."

Candace Martin, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said that "with these appalling views, Jon Hubbard cannot be trusted to represent Arkansans and set policy for our state."

Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, said the controversial comments were a throwback to the 1960s when Arkansas was a civil rights battleground.

"It's hard to remember a set of remarks this extreme on racial matters by an Arkansas official since the state's politics modernized in the late 1960s than that by Mr. Hubbard," Barth said on Saturday.

He added that Fuqua's writing created a particular challenge for Republicans because it made it more difficult to frame Hubbard's remarks as that of a single misguided party official. (Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Alex Dobuzinskis and Paul Simao)