By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
THE COMPANY HE KEPT
It begins with denials, repeated over time, by state Arizona Senate President-elect Russell Pearce concerning his association with the Valley's best-known neo-Nazi, J.T. Ready.
Approached by an activist at a 2008 candidate forum during the Republican primary for the hotly contested state Senate seat in Legislative District 18, Pearce was asked point-blank if he was pals with the Mesa swastika-licker.
It was a relationship I'd exposed in my Feathered Bastard blog in June 2007 with photos of Pearce and Ready working a nativist rally at the state Capitol together ("Triumph of the Swill," June 18).
At the event, Pearce applauded Ready's rousing anti-immigrant speech, one that talked of yanking judges and elected officials around by their collars, and offered a disturbing vision of Marines mopping up undesirables around the United States.
Still, when confronted by community activist Adolfo Maldonado, Pearce angrily rebutted the contention that he and Ready were tight.
"J.T. Ready showed up at a rally with me and J.D. Hayworth," spat Pearce, as shown in the subsequent YouTube video. "And the New Times — the great fiction it is — went around trying to find a picture they could use."
Later, Pearce added, "It's an old story. It's fiction. [New Times] made it up."
In statements to local media, Pearce has tried to make it sound as if Ready had just happened to be at the rally with him, and they had just happened to be photographed arm in arm.
Recently, Pearce told Arizona Republic reporter Gary Nelson that he has his photo taken with lots of folks.
"Had my picture taken with a gal that I know for a fact is a lesbian," Pearce cracked. "I had my picture taken, I'm sure, with several Democrats. But yet nobody's accused me of being a lesbian or a Democrat."
However, Pearce and Ready were linked in many ways politically, socially, and through religion, specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Links as tightly wound as a Gordian knot.
Politically, Pearce endorsed Ready when Ready ran for the Mesa City Council in 2006 against incumbent Kyle Jones. In a video for Ready's failed bid, Pearce calls Ready "a true patriot" and friend of the taxpayer.
Ready has maintained that Pearce was a "father figure" to him. And I've recently come across evidence that this may have been the case.
The first is a photo from Ready's baptism into the Mormon Church. Ready became LDS sometime in 2003 or 2004. His status as a rising player in East Valley politics is vouched for by those who attended the event.
In the picture, former state Senator Karen Johnson clutches Ready's arm, seated on the front row. Behind them are the smiling faces of former state Representative Dean Cooley, local John Birch Society leader Jim Pinkerman, late state House Speaker Jeff Groscost, and, of course, Pearce, then a member of the state House.
Johnson, Pinkerman, and Cooley all freely admitted they were at the baptism. And they all avowed that they had no inkling of Ready's extremist views at the time.
This may be true, as Ready was not publicly outed as a white supremacist until the Arizona Anti-Defamation League spotlighted Ready during a panel discussion at the state Capitol in March 2007, which I recounted in a 2007 Bird column ("Ready Racist," April 26).
Notably, both that forum and my column came before Pearce and Ready got buddy-buddy at the June 2007 nativist rally.
Also, Pearce had been warned privately in October 2006 of Ready's nefarious affiliations. This, by Bill Straus, regional director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League.
Straus gave Pearce a file on neo-Nazis and other racists flocking to Pearce's anti-immigrant cause. It included information on and a photo of Ready, who already was on the ADL's radar.
When, in 2008, three Arizona congressmen lined up to kick Ready out of the Republican Party and his elected post as a precinct committeeman, Pearce was again linked to Ready with a now-infamous photo of the prejudiced pair from the 2007 rally, published in Feathered Bastard ("Tonopah's White Knights of America," June 28, 2007).
Of that photo, Pearce told the Republic, "Nobody knew what [Ready] stood for."
After reading that statement, Straus fired off a letter to Pearce reminding him of their October 2006 meeting. Straus says he never received a reply.
"It's hard for me to fathom," Straus told me, "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."
Pearce's presence at Ready's baptism belies Pearce's attempts to distance himself from Ready by portraying both of them as two right-wing tugboats passing in the night.
See, Pearce went further than being at Ready's baptism; he also ordained Ready as an "elder" in the Mormon church, making him a member of what's known as the Melchizedek priesthood.
As Karen Johnson said to me, "Almost all of the men in the church hold the office of elder."
According to LDS spokeswoman Kim Farah, the person being ordained gets to choose who will ordain him. She explained that often a young man will choose his father to do the ordination.