Update: 5:40 p.m.: Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, who was tapped to be the next speaker of the Nevada Assembly, apologized on Thursday after comments he made in several columns written for the Sparks Tribune were publicized Thursday.
“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.
“I am committed to showing that actions are much louder than words and my office will always have an open door to all backgrounds and political viewpoints. This will not distract us from finding solutions to building a brighter and more prosperous Nevada.”
Meanwhile, state Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, condemned Hansen’s remarks in a statement issued Thursday.
“As the Democratic leader of the State Senate, and more importantly as a father and citizen of Nevada, I wholeheartedly condemn Speaker-designate Ira Hansen’s racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks. I am saddened that I once again find myself in a position where I have to explain to my children why and how someone who was elected to office in our home state would make such antiquated and bigoted comments. Mr. Hansen has stated that his words were meant to be ‘provocative.’ They certainty provoke, but more than that, they are offensive.
“The Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus is one of the most diverse caucuses in the nation, with male and female members belonging to the African American and Hispanic communities, the LGBT community, and multiple religious communities. Our caucus reflects the cultural diversity of Nevada, and we will continue to condemn remarks like the ones unearthed today. We are committed to representing the communities to which we belong. Moreover, we will represent all Nevadans to foster an inclusive, accepting environment for everyone.”
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., was also critical of Hansen.
“Assemblyman Hansen’s past comments and positions on race, religion, and gender that have recently been reported give me great concern,” Heller said in a prepared statement. “These comments were insensitive, wrong, and extremely offensive and insulting. Statements like these do not have a place in public discourse.”
Original post: The Reno-Sparks branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is demanding the ouster of new Assembly Speaker Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, for his “racist, bigoted, and homophobic” views he showed as a columnist for the Sparks Tribune.
Hansen was elected speaker two weeks ago, defeating former Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, for the speakers’ position.
Hansen wrote for the Sparks Tribune through two decades, beginning in 1994.
“We understand that the (GOP Assembly) caucus has many newly elected members who may not be as familiar with Mr. Hansen’s past as we are. They need to know he has beaten the drum of intolerance for decades,” said Jeffrey Blanck, the Reno-Sparks NAACP branch president.
Hansen was named speaker designate about two weeks ago and could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Fellow Assembly GOP caucus member, Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Minden, said people should give Hansen a chance before trying 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 (in the election). Give us a shot.”
The criticism of Hansen by the NAACP comes on the same day The Reno News & Review published a story by longtime Nevada journalist Dennis Myers, who reviewed 13 years of Hansen’s columns in the Sparks Tribune that started in 1994. Myers noted Hansen’s views on women, gays and race.
Myers’ story was picked up by various national news outlets, including the Washington Post and Huffington Post.
“No Nevada official has ever given the public a more detailed blueprint to his thinking than Hansen,” Myers wrote.
People should not take the NAACP’s word about Hansen’s writings, Blanck said. They should read the articles themselves.
“We do not ask anyone to take our word for it,” Blanck said about NAACP allegations “Take his words. A detailed compendium of his racist, bigoted, and homophobic views has been posted online and may be accessed via the Reno-Sparks NAACP’s website at RenoSparksNAACP.org.
“As a public official, Hansen’s comments are of importance,” Blanck said.
Wheeler said Hansen’s opponents can’t criticize his policies so they are attacking him personally.
“So far the other side has not been able to focus on the polices that we wish to get through in the next session (of the Legislature), therefore, they are stooping to personal attacks which is the “modus operandi” for the other side of the aisle.”
Wheeler said he was not directing his criticism at Assembly Democrats nor the Nevada Democratic Party.
“It is a small subgroup of very liberal people,” Wheeler said about Hansen’s political opponents. “They can’t go after our policies so they are going after us personally and there is no room for that. People don’t want that anymore.”
Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said on Twitter that Hansen’s comments make him “nauseous.”
“Speaker Hansen & I have a cordial relationship, but we don’t see eye-to-eye on much,” Ford tweeted. “This literally makes me nauseous.”
Ford did not immediately return calls seeking an expanded comment.
Myers noted that Hansen was critical of black activist Martin Luther King Jr. in one of his Sparks Tribune columns.
“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,” Hansen wrote, according to Myers’ story.