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Arizona Tragedy: Former Senate President Has Some Explaining to Do

By Mark Potok on May 3, 2012 - 10:47 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Extremist Crime

Former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of his state’s draconian anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 law, issued a statement last night denouncing “the local media” for attempting to tie him to J.T. Ready, the neo-Nazi who is believed to have murdered four people earlier in the day before being shot to death himself.

What an utter crock.

After a brief nod to the “horrific and evil” nature of the killings — Ready’s girlfriend, her daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend and her 1½-year-old daughter were his victims — Pearce launched into a self-serving diatribe. He accused the media of a “lie” that was “told and retold,” and claimed that he had distanced himself from Ready as soon as his neo-Nazi views became public. He also claimed that he worked with other Republicans to have Ready thrown out of a GOP committeeman’s seat.

JT Ready poses with Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce

Those statements are false. The fact is that Pearce was photographed and videotaped as he palled around with Ready at a June 2007 rally. Confronted at the time by a reporter, he suggested that he hardly knew Ready or his views. In fact, as the Phoenix New Times reported, Pearce was part of a small group that celebrated Ready’s baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2003 or 2004. Not only that, but a local official of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had warned Pearce in detail of Ready’s white supremacism in October 2006. (“It’s hard for me to fathom,” the ADL official told New Times, “that after a one-on-one meeting with me — and all the press J.T. got — that [Pearce] was unaware of what he was and what he stood for.”) And Ready’s neo-Nazi views were again described in March 2007, three months before the June rally where he worked the crowd with Pearce, during a panel discussion at the state Capitol that made the local newspapers.

And those views were quite something. Ready wanted to mine the border, described Jews as “parasites” and said the United States was a “white, European homeland.” He patrolled the border with other heavily armed neo-Nazis in his U.S. Border Guard group and threatened to use deadly force against immigrants. He denounced “niggers, homosexuals, mexicans, jews [sic]” and was a prominent member of the National Socialist Movement, the country’s largest neo-Nazi group. He was also a violent thug who was drummed out of the Marines after two courts-martial and had a criminal record for assault. And he repeatedly ran for political office.

In fact, the same year that Pearce was warned by the ADL of Ready’s views, the neo-Nazi was running for the Mesa, Ariz., City Council. In a video supporting Ready, Pearce called Ready a “true patriot,” according to New Times. The newspaper also reported that Ready described Pearce as a “father figure” who had groomed him for a possible run for the Arizona state legislature. At the time of Ready’s death, he was running for sheriff of Pinal County.

In yesterday’s statement, Pearce also claimed that after “darkness took [Ready’s] life over,” Pearce “worked with others to have him removed from his local position within our Republican Party because there has never been and will never be any room in our Party or our lives for those preaching hatred.”

There’s no evidence of that at all. In fact, it was three Arizona congressmen who joined forces to try to boot Ready out of his GOP precinct committeeman post in 2008. They were unsuccessful and Ready served out his term.

Pearce is best known for his sponsorship of Arizona’s punishing anti-immigrant law, much of which is held up in the courts, and became Senate president largely on the basis of that effort. (He is also remembered for, in 2006, E-mailing his supporters an anti-Semitic article from the National Alliance, for many years America’s leading neo-Nazi organization.) Last fall, in an unprecedented local occurrence, Pearce was recalled in a voter referendum and currently has no official post.

Although many details of yesterday’s tragic killings remain murky — including the motive — the slaughter once again highlights the ugly nature of America’s nativist movement. It was, after all, the second killing carried out by a leader of a border vigilante group. (In 2009, Shawna Forde, leader of Minuteman American Defense, joined two confederates in murdering a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter; she was sentenced to death last year.) But the most important lesson of the killings may be to remind Americans of the ties of the anti-immigrant movement to opportunistic bigots like Russell Pearce.

  • Jaime

    After reading about Jason T. Ready and Russell Pearce I can understand why Rommey doesn’t want to talk about Mormomism.
    And J. T. Ready is an ordained and baptized minister in the Mormon Faith. I find it unbelievable.

  • jane

    J.T. Ready was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (sponsored by Russell Pearce) in 2003 or 2004. Does anybody know what attracted him to this group or, for that matter, what attracted this group to him ? Enquiring minds would like to know..

  • CM


    Technically, your name should be “Das Radikale.” Or you could be “Ein Radikaler.” Clearly, you’ve never actually studied German but are merely “ein Angeber.”

  • Der Radikaler

    The two party system isn’t working. Each party has to make room for the extremists because there’s only two parties. A new Nazi would never become a nationally prominent politician but it’s certainly possible for one of them to rise to power in an area where racist views aren’t as frowned upon as in the rest of the country.

  • CM


    Read the post again, with your eyes open. The only mentions of Republicans or the GOP are in the two paragraphs referring to Pearce’s false claim that he tried to get Ready fired from his committee seat. Apparently you’re one of those people who think facts have a liberal bias.

  • Cornrow Wallace

    OH MY GOD! A politician being less than trueful, shoc-ker.

  • Erika

    Dear Mexico,

    Please take Arizona back. If you want incentive on why you would want this hotbed of nutcases back think of the entertainment that will result when someone like Russell Pearce finds out that he is now an illegal immigrant. Plus, the land has to be worth something.

    Pretty please with sugar on top take Arizona back :)


    Erika :)

  • Chris

    A true representation of what the Right stands for. Well that is until they act on their beliefs rather than just spewing the hatred on camera.

    Again, another embarrassment that goes directly with our Governor and Sheriff Joe’s actions.

    Hopefully, they will find themselves unemployed on election day, and as for Arpaio, do they have Pink Depends? He’ll need it as he serves the time for his crimes.

    And taxpayers foot the bill. As usual.

  • NAFTA Refugee

    So Russel Pearce is publicly denouncing the evil racist.

    Sounds like a step in the right direction.

    As for Joe Arpaio. Go Joe.

  • Sheila

    You spoke about them both ,Ready and Pearce….I am so glad that the world will finally see the people in politics in Arizona ,,,making slaves.of the people.of the state.

  • Donald Yacavone

    I can’t believe > As I’m reading this, the TV is doing the same story! Hatred is the most useless and destructive of all human emotions. In truth, I don’t believe it will ever be eradicated, but that does not relieve us from trying. Thanks much, to all of you for all the good things you do

  • Bob

    As soon as I read about Pearce “distancing” himself from a mass murderer, I wondered what his stand was before the murders occurred. Thank you for answering my question.

  • Frank

    I am not a democrat, somewhat of a republican, but mostly an independent. This generalization of the GOP, however, is pathetic. These are extremists and should be treated as such. The problem with the left, right and media is that they label the other side as extreme to the point of absurdity regardless of the situation. Do you dems think the murder, rape, and extreme vandalism shown at OWS represents the democrat masses? I don’t think so. To categorize all GOP in the same group as this psychopath, as this very biased blog suggests, is ignorant at best.

  • Marisa

    As a lifelong Mormon and lifelong Democrat, I can assure you that I never voted for Russell Pearce and have known J.T. Ready to be a Neo-Nazi extremist for years. Trouble is, the people in my church have ignored the reprehensible behavior of both Pearce and Ready – they are, for the most part, extremely naive and closed-minded. Lots of them have joined the “tea party” movement. I find that appalling. They should, as a group, find their own stupidity through the years with regard to both Pearce and Ready, equally appalling. Too bad they won’t. Apparently, there’s no cure for stupid.

  • Ken Jacobsen

    Thank you for pointing out the connection between Pearce and Ready. And for quoting Phoenix New Times, the only local media source that has consistently stood up to the blatant racism AZ politicians like Ready and Pearce. With the almost sole exception of New Times, it’s the abject spinelessness of the local AZ media that has allowed people like Pearce to flourish in this state. The local media’s slavish promotion of Joe Arpaio has been a sickening sight here for decades now.

  • Mat Gonzales

    Mark, Thank you for bringing to light this association. It is still astounding to me that people like this are given any credence by the right wing and a certain major political party in this country. The real tragedy out of this entire mess was that he killed perfectly innocent people while he was at it. That despite this, and the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords there is still no call for gun control in this country is particularly mind-numbing.

  • Reynardine

    Noplace is free of its sick icks, but even from Florida, I’d have to class Arizona as…special.

  • Matthew Bright

    The establishment and press seem very willing to help these politicians in Arizona distance themselves from their followers when they commit a terrible crime. Going so far as to list Jason Bush, the white supremacist triggerman in the Brisenia Flores murder, as a “Mexican American” on the Arizona Dept. of Corrections website. Don’t try and get them to change the erroneous profile either. They won’t respond.

    In a world of perfect justice, a lot of those politicians in Arizona would be sitting on Death Row today with Shawna Forde.

  • Albatross

    Conservatives hurry to play the victim, because victims are by definition not responsible for what happens to them. And the last thing a conservative wants to do is take responsibility for anything.