The rhetoric of Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, against illegal immigrants, coupled with a racist e-mail he inadvertently forwarded to friends several weeks ago, has rallied at least one group of unwelcome supporters: white supremacists.
Around the country—on blogs, forums and e-mails—members and supporters of pro-white groups have been posting the news articles about Pearce on the Internet and cheering him on.
“Please offer whatever support you can for Rep. Pearce because he’s standing in the face of an avalanche of brown mud, fighting for the very future of his people, and the multi cultis are biting at his ankles as he tries to stand on both feet,” wrote someone on a white supremacist Web site called stormfront.org.
Another forum member followed up by asking, “Has anyone sent the man an e-mail? Let’s help wake him up.”
Pearce’s personal e-mail address has been posted on several pro-white forums, including stormfront and resistance.com, a Web site run by the National Alliance. The e-mail address posted on these sites was the same one Pearce used when he inadvertently forwarded an article published by the National Alliance to supporters.
The article alleges the media are controlled by Jews and takes jabs at multiculturalism. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the National Alliance a neo-Nazi group. Pearce apologized numerous times for the incident, saying he did not agree with the e-mail’s message.
On Friday, Pearce said he has very little knowledge about the different pro-white groups, but he is disturbed that they are posting his email on their sites.
“There are groups out there that are just full of hate,” Pearce said. “And they love to co-opt peoples’ statements or issues as if they are on that side, when it’s just not true.”
“I have never supported these kinds of groups. This is about America. It’s about standing up for what’s right,” he added.
Experts on hate groups say it’s no surprise that Pearce attracts the attention of white supremacists. Immigration is a hot issue for pro-white groups, and when they hear Pearce’s position, they see a candidate who is reflecting some of their views.
“There’s no doubt at all that immigration has helped spur the growth of hate groups pretty dramatically in the last few years,” said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The reasons are obvious,” Potok said. “First of all, immigration is an issue with huge resonance in the public . . . and, of course, at the end of the day, it’s an issue with very strong racial resonance.”
Pearce is not the only politician that has the support of white supremacists. Other candidates, including immigration hard-liner Randy Graf of Tucson and Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado are also praised on hate Web sites. Most recently, a self-proclaimed Klansman on Stormfront.org bragged that he had infiltrated Graf’s campaign for Congress. Graf also had some troubles similar to Pearce’s when former Klansman and Louisiana Rep. David Duke posted a link on his own Web site to Graf’s campaign site.
But Pearce said Friday that his views on immigration have nothing to do with race, and added that the immigration debate is not just about one group of people.
In a report drafted by the American Defamation League three years ago, the organization warned that the growing tensions along the Mexican border would only galvanize the hate groups.
But Pearce’s recent political blunder is not the first time that he’s called unwanted attention to himself.
Jared Taylor, editor of the pro-white magazine American Renaissance, said he had never heard of Pearce until his “Operation Wetback” comment, in which Pearce seemed to call for a return to Eisenhower’s mass deportation program.
That got a lot of white separatists talking.
“I think it’s always refreshing to hear someone speak in a straightforward way,” Taylor said of Pearce.
Pearce said he’s never mingled with pro-white groups, but he supports organizations such as the Federation for Immigration Reform. In 2004 when Pearce led the Protect Arizona Now campaign to pass Proposition 200, for example, he worked with Rick Oltman, the western regional director of the Federation for Immigration Reform.
But according to a newspaper published by the white supremacist group Council of Conservative Citizens in the winter of 1997-98, Oltman was listed as a member of the white supremacist group. The article stated that Oltman spoke at one of the group’s events and was slated to make another appearance at a rally in 1998. When reached by phone earlier this week, Oltman denied that he was a member and said he had only spoken at a Council of Conservative Citizens event “once.”
Pearce said he did not know about the old news clipping linking Oltman to the Council of Conservative Citizens. He said he would be cautious about the accuracy of the the council’s newspaper, but that if someone is connected to a pro-white group, he wants nothing to do with it.
All of this has taught Pearce a valuable lesson: Be careful what you send people over the Internet. “My finger is not really as fast on the send button,” he said. “You can’t dive in and get it back.”