Moral Low Ground

US Government

Arizona GOP Vice Chair Russell Pearce Resigns after Calling for Forced Sterilization of Welfare Recipients

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The vice chairman of the Arizona Republican Party has resigned after advocating the forced sterilization of female welfare recipients on his weekly radio program.

The Arizona Republic reports Russell Pearce, 67, resigned his post late Sunday following widespread public outrage over comments first reported last week by the Phoenix New Times.

“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” Pearce said on the last episode of The Russell Pearce Show, which airs Saturdays on KKNT 960 AM. “Then we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

Pearce also suggested food restrictions and military-style housing for welfare recipients.

“No cash for Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, you’d only get money for 15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and powdered milk — all the powdered milk you can haul away,” Pearce said. “If you want a steak or frozen pizza, then you’d have to get a job.”

About housing he said: “Ever live in a military barracks? You’ll maintain your property in a clean, good state of repair, and your home will be subjected to an inspection at any time, possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or an X-Box 360, then get a job.”

The New Times notes that one of Pearce’s duties in his $85,000 per year job working for Maricopa County Treasurer Charles “Hos” Hoskins is promoting participation in the Elderly Assistance Fund, a government program which helps low-income senior citizens lower their property tax bills.

In a statement explaining his resignation, Pearce called his comments “a mistake” which his opponents in politics and the media would exploit to hurt Republicans.

“This mistake has been taken by the media and the Left and used to hurt our Republican candidates,” he wrote.

Republican state attorney general nominee Mark Brnovich issued the strongest conservative repudiation of Pearce’s remarks, saying they “are unrepresentative of the Republican party I know.”

“The notion that government would force sterilization upon anyone is counter to everything I believe about individual liberty and contrary to the founding principles of a free nation,” Brnovich said in a statement. “Comments that demean the plight of the poor, including women in the dual role of mother and economic provider, are not conservative; they’re cruel. And I reject them.”

Pearce, who was a state senator from 2006 to 2011, is best known for being the primary sponsor of SB1070, one of the nation’s harshest anti-undocumented immigration laws. In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released e-mails proving the law was racially motivated against Latinos.

Pearce also raised eyebrows and ire back in 2006 when he called for the re-instatement of a pre-civil rights era program for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants called “Operation Wetback.”

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