Why is it that some lies are so difficult to rebut? One reason: eviscerating untruths is made infinitely harder when the media is complicit in perpetuating them.
For many years, I've written about the ties between ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce (who believes it's the Legislature's "duty" to "reimburse" him $260,000 for money that his failed recall campaign spent) and well-known neo-Nazi, alleged kid-killer, and apparent suicide victim J.T. Ready.
And yet, Wednesday night, more than one TV news show uncritically reported Pearce's self-serving statement about his relationship with Ready, whom authorities believe offed himself and four others at a Gilbert home Wednesday afternoon. Some news anchors related the press release as if it were true, failing to challenge Pearce's skewed version of his own personal history.
As I've demonstrated on numerous occasions, Pearce is a serial prevaricator. I've spent a lot of time cataloging his dishonesty on several subjects, including his connection to Ready, to whom he was close at one time.
Indeed, the pair once were so close that Pearce attended Ready's baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in 2004, Pearce ordained Ready an elder in the church's Melchizedek priesthood, an office held by adult men of the Mormon faith.
Pearce's entire statement on the Gilbert massacre is reproduced below. In it, Pearce paints himself as the victim, whining about reporters and editors calling him for comment. He accuses these journos of trying to "score the ugliest of political points off of this tragedy," when, in reality, calling a political figure who was at one time publicly affiliated with Ready is a no-brainer in light of current events.
In the statement, the erstwhile legislator admits to having known Ready but insists that he was ignorant of Ready's extremist views and associations when they were pals. Reports to the contrary are false, he insists.
"In the past several years, the local media has worked hard to try to tie me to the J.T. Ready that preached hate," Pearce asserts. "And that is nothing more than a lie. When I learned the truth about him, I made it clear how wrong I thought it was, and I worked to remove him from our party." Pearce claims he thought Ready was just a stand-up ex-Marine, and that Ready's turn to the dark side only became evident later.
"At some point in time, darkness took his life over. His heart changed," Pearce writes. "And he began to associate with the more despicable groups in society. They were intolerant and hateful and like so many who knew him from before, I was upset and disappointed at the choices he was making."
And if you buy that, I've got a bridge in Lake Havasu I want to sell you.
Pearce supported Ready's run for Mesa City Council in 2006. You can see video of Pearce endorsing him for that post in a mini-documentary videographer Dennis Gilman and I did on the Pearce-Ready relationship, here. It also includes a exclusive interviews with Ready and video of the 2007 speech mentioned below.
During 2006, Ready was involved in a strange, almost comical "shootout" with an illegal alien in Mesa as Ready drove back from a trip to Walmart. Other outlets reported on a 1992 aggravated assault charge in Florida that Ready had on his record.
Ready also told the press that he was courting the support of the Mesa Hell's Angels in his city council bid. If that's not a red flag, I don't know what is.
After Ready lost the election, the East Valley Tribune exposed his checkered history as a Marine, including the fact that he had been court-martialed twice, then drummed out of the military.
In March 2007, the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona exposed Ready as a white-supremacist during a forum at the state Legislature on extremism in Arizona's anti-immigrant movement. Then state House member Kyrsten Sinema sponsored the event. You can watch video of that forum, here.
I once asked Sinema whether Pearce could have been unaware of the seminar.
"I find that very hard to believe," she told me in 2008. "The entire Legislature was invited to the event. The whole thing was videotaped, and you can watch it on our archive. And I reported it on the floor [of the state House]."
In April 2007, I wrote about that forum and the fact Ready had been exposed as being a racist and an anti-Semite. During the same month, I reported on a meeting of the nativist group United for a Sovereign America where Ready called the ADL the "Anti-Defecation League." Pearce had spoken to USA before. Indeed, that organization fervently supported his anti-immigrant efforts.
In June 2007. Pearce and Ready worked the crowd together at an anti-immigrant rally on the state House lawn. I witnessed this myself and took photos of them doing so.
Ready gave a fiery speech at the rally, where he talked of closing off America's borders with U.S. Marine divisions and threatened to jerk around non-compliant judges by their collars. In video of the speech, Pearce can be seen smiling and applauding Ready's tirade.
Years later, I was able to reveal that the ADL of Arizona's regional director Bill Straus had informed Pearce of Ready's extremist tendencies as far back as 2006, though Pearce, in his many denials over the years, has asserted that he knew nothing of Ready's far-right activities.
This is what I wrote at the time:
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.
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 finally denounced Ready in August of 2008 during a GOP primary contest for state Senate. But this was our colloquy when I ran into him at a 2007 roast of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Sun City:
"There was a point where I thought J.T. was a good guy," the bullet-headed legislator confessed. "But I was disappointed by that picture I saw [of J.T. demonstrating with neo-Nazis in Omaha, Nebraska]."
So was Ready the fella who sent Pearce that neo-Nazi National Alliance e-mail that got Pearce in such a pickle last year when he forwarded it to followers?
"I'm not going to get into that," he said, shaking his head. "That's old history. It doesn't matter who sent it. That's my job to be alert when I read."
In journalism, that's what they call a non-denial denial.
"I don't think J.T.'s a bad guy, I think his association with these groups is wrong," insisted Pearce.
Really? So what about the vicious, anti-Semitic screeds J.T. posts on NewSaxon.com, "an online community for whites, by whites"? Is Pearce okay with that? Pearce said no, so The Bird advised the lawmaker not to hang out with J.T. anymore.
"I never did," Pearce shot back.
This tallywhacker told Pearce that's a lie because The Bird was at that June rally, watched Pearce and Ready work the crowd together arm-in-arm, and has the photos to prove it.
"That's not my fault," cried Pearce. "I don't push people away. I was also at the side of Al Rodriguez and J.D. Hayworth. You didn't take those pictures."
That's because neither Rodriguez, an anti-illegal immigrant activist, nor former Congressman Hayworth is a neo-Nazi.
Keep in mind this was in December 2007, after Pearce had been warned by Straus, and after Ready had been publicly outed as a white supremacist and had been caught openly marching with National Socialist Movement stormtroopers in Omaha, Nebraska.
And yet, to Pearce, Ready was still a "good guy."
To hear Ready tell it, he and Pearce were thick as thieves at one point. He accused Pearce of telling ethnic jokes (which Pearce denied), and he was the first to suggest that Pearce's criminally inclined son Joshua bore a Nazi eagle tattoo on his chest.
(Pearce has denied this too, though he confessed that Joshua's tattoo was inappropriate.)
In other words, Ready claimed to know a lot of personal details about Pearce and his family.
I could practically write a book about the Ready-Pearce connection. Sometimes I feel like I have. Pearce was much closer to Ready than the former senator has admitted. And they shared similar views on immigration. I would argue that at least on those two topics, Ready was far more honest than Pearce has ever been.
Here's Russell Pearce's statement on the Gilbert massacre in its entirety:
Our prayers and thoughts are with the surviving family members and friends of the victims of today's horrific and evil act. There are no words to adequately express the sadness we share, as a community, with those affected.
I spent much of my day resisting efforts by those in the media to get me to make a statement. Today's events have nothing to do with me and no connection to me. Yet TV news crews started coming to my home seeking comments and my telephone rang nonstop with calls from those who were desperate to score the ugliest of political points off of this tragedy. Now my name is being mentioned in coverage and I have no choice but to respond.
Regarding whether I knew JT Ready, I did, as did many of us who have been involved in Mesa politics for a long time. When we first met JT he was fresh out of the Marine Corps and seemed like a decent person. He worked as a telephone fundraiser for Christian and pro-life groups, he dated the daughter of one of our District 18 members, and his attitudes and spoken opinions were good and decent.
At some point in time darkness took his life over, his heart changed, and he began to associate with the more despicable groups in society. They were intolerant and hateful and like so many who knew him from before, I was upset and disappointed at the choices he was making. I 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. He was angry with me and stayed angry with me, and it has been several years since I have had reason to speak with JT.
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In the past several years the local media has worked hard to try to tie me to the JT Ready that preached hate, and that is nothing more than a lie. When I learned the truth about him, I made it clear how wrong I thought it was and I worked to remove him from our Party. Yet the lie is told and retold over and over again. It is the ugliest form of politics. The most radical groups I have ever belonged to are the Boy Scouts of America and the Fraternal Order of Police, and in my 65 years in Mesa, as a law enforcement deputy, as a judge and as the head of state agencies, I have never been accused of mistreating anyone or of unfair conduct toward anyone I have associated with, hired or supervised.
Finally, while I am frequently critical of the job the mainstream media does in pursuing a political agenda instead of the truth, today's behavior is the most reprehensible that I have ever witnessed. On the very day that these unspeakable crimes take place, editors and producers all over town are making a concerted effort to make the story about a politician whose conservative politics they disagree with.
Today, the Devil won and claimed the soul of one young man and the lives of others, including the most innocent of all, a child. Our thoughts and prayers are with the four beautiful souls that are now in God's hands. We pray that He accepts them into his kingdom and that He grants comfort and solace to the friends and surviving family.