Arizona state senator criticized for comments about Buffalo shootings

The Arizona Senate opened an ethics investigation Monday into an inflammatory Republican member who tweeted inflammatory comments about last weekend’s racist attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which killed 10 people.

GOP Senator Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff’s referral to the ethics committee was in lieu of the immediate eviction that Democratic lawmakers were planning, GOP majority leader Rick Gray said. Due process considerations require no less than an ethical inquiry, he said.

But Democrats were outraged, noting that Rogers was just censored in March for a repeated series of tweets and statements embracing white nationalism and calling for violence.

Despite a bipartisan 24-3 vote on the Republican plan to open an ethics committee review that could lead to an expulsion, disapproval or reprimand, Democrats failed to get Republicans to pass their motion to expel Rogers. to support, to support.

On Saturday, on the news of the mass shooting by a white suspect who posted a racist cover-up on the Internet and drove approximately 200 miles to a black neighborhood in Buffalo, Rogers tweeted, “Fed boy summer has begun in Buffalo.”

Many in both parties took that tweet to mean that Rogers was laying the attack on the federal government, especially in light of Rogers’ history of embracing conspiracy theories and posting racist tropes.

Only three members voted not to open the ethics inquiry, including Rogers and Republican Senator Warren Petersen, who said he hadn’t even heard of the controversy when he walked onto the Senate floor. Republican Senator Kelly Townsend, who is challenging Rogers in the GOP primary after placing both in the same district, also opposed the ethics inquiry.

Townsend said Rogers’s comments were an embarrassment to the state and the Republican Party and hurt the families of the victims in Buffalo even more.

“But she has the right to make them,” Townsend said. “I have to defend someone’s right to say ugly things. That’s why the First Amendment exists. It doesn’t exist for the kind words – it exists for the ugly words.”

The hour-long debate in the Senate over what to do with Rogers turned into an altercation, with Republicans accusing Democrats of trying to make political hay and Democrats accusing GOP members of a pattern of avoiding awkward discussions about race relations. by closing any debate on race relations. the problem.

Republican Senator Sonny Borrelli called it an example of the cancellation culture of Democrats who hate Rogers and her kind of politics. Others agreed that Rogers’ words were being used against her.

“This is not a criminal offense that can be deported,” Republican Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita said. “The D’s are politicizing it.”

She called it a dangerous precedent to consider removing or even censoring a member for their tweets or comments.

GOP Sen. JD Mesnard, who was house speaker when a member was evicted in 2018 after a string of sexual misconduct allegations, said hearings and an ethics committee trial were imperative.

“This is the equivalent of a legislative execution,” Mesnard said of the motion to evict Rogers. “That’s why due process and ethical process and investigation are so crucial.”

Democrats pointed to Rogers’s past troubles, which began the month she was sworn in in 2021 when an executive accused her of bullying and other unprofessional behavior, and the March 2022 censure, which was also approved by a 24-3 vote. with three members not present. Townsend was absent, but said she would have voted yes.

“How many times do you let your kids get out of control before you give them the opportunity for discipline,” Democratic Senator Theresa Hatathlie said. “Discipline is a learning moment. We have already had that.”

Democratic Senator Martin Quezada said much the same, accusing GOP members of “tackling the road” by failing to take immediate action.

He said Rogers’ tweets needed no investigation, and that it and her history was all that was at stake.

“Now there’s a track record, now there’s a pattern of behavior,” Quezada said. “We have not heard any attempt to defend those actions. And my assumption is because there is no defense against those actions.”

Rogers did not comment on the Senate floor, where the other members talked to her for hours.

However, on Monday morning, she tweeted that she “of course” condemned the violence in Buffalo.

“I also condemn the #FakeNews and the government promoting violence and then blaming mainstream patriotic Americans as if ordinary Americans share those despicable views. All is not what it seems!” the tweet continued.

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