RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Reno-Sparks NAACP called on Republicans in the Nevada Assembly on Thursday to reconsider their recent choice of Assemblyman Ira Hansen to serve as speaker in 2015, saying the Sparks conservative has demonstrated a long history of racial insensitivity and bigotry.
Hansen "has beaten the drum of intolerance for decades," Reno-Sparks NAACP President Jeffrey Blanck said in urging the election of a "less divisive" speaker.
The local chapter posted a long list of statements on its website on Thursday attributed to Hansen over the past 20 years, mostly in columns he wrote for The Sparks Tribune.
"Mr. Hansen has long been an unyielding opponent of everything the NAACP supports," Blanck said, pointing to the excerpts that he said represent a "detailed compendium" of Hansen's "racist, bigoted and homophobic views."
Hansen said in a statement late Thursday that the column he started writing in the Tribune nearly 20 years ago was "meant to be purposely provocative." He said many of the writings and statements he made as a talk radio host were being taken out of context, but Hansen added that he was "deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans."
The GOP Assembly elected Hansen as speaker-designate two weeks ago after Republicans won control of both of Nevada's legislative houses for the first time since 1985.
The local NAACP's bid to deny him leadership of the lower house comes on the heels of the weekly Reno News & Review's report citing dozens of Hansen quotes offensive to women, gays and minorities. They included:
— "The relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what's best for his simple minded darkies."
— "The 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."
— "Locally, gangs and their associated criminal activity are obviously dominated by immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants."
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, re-elected to a second term in a landslide on Nov. 4, said Hansen "will have to answer questions regarding his previous statements himself."
"I wholeheartedly disagree with Assemblyman Hansen's past public statements on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. This abhorrent kind of speech is unacceptable," the governor said in a statement.
The local NAACP chapter also took issue with Hansen's recent appointment of Republican Assemblyman James Wheeler of Minden as chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee. Blanck said Wheeler brought national ridicule on Nevada when he said he would vote to bring back slavery if that's what his constituency wanted.
"All this would be laughable were it not so abhorrent and dangerous," Blanck said in a statement Thursday.
Wheeler told the Reno Gazette-Journal on Thursday that people should give Hansen a chance before they try to tear him down.
"He is really trying to do something right here, and this kind of thing is so counterproductive," Wheeler said. "Give us a chance. The people decided (the election). Give us a shot."