Ducey Defends Allen, Who Called Coverage of Her Remarks a 'Verbal Lynching'

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday broke his silence over State Senator Sylvia Allen's controversial comments on immigration and declining white birth rates, rejecting any comparison between her and disgraced former State Representative David Stringer.

In June 2018, Ducey called for Stringer's resignation a day after news outlets published a video of the Prescott Republican calling immigration an "existential threat" and decrying that there "aren't enough white kids to go around" in Arizona public schools.

The Republican governor struck a different tone when he commented on Allen's remarks that the United States will "look like South American countries very quickly" due to a "flooding" of immigrants arriving at such a rate that they won't be able to learn "the principles of our country."

Phoenix New Times published audio of Allen's comments — which she made at a July 15 Republican event — on Friday.

"Sylvia Allen is not David Stringer. Come on,” a visibly irritated Ducey told reporters, according to a video posted on Twitter by 12 News anchor Brahm Resnik. "She disavowed her comments and says she has love in her heart for every person."

Contrary to Ducey's statement, Allen did not disavow her comments.

In a statement on Friday, Allen claimed her remarks were taken out of context. She apologized for "anybody who has been hurt" and claimed her remarks on "South American countries" did not refer to race, but to the political systems of some countries on the continent.

"My reference to South America was the concern that some of these countries are socialist, and that we must preserve our Constitutional Republic form of government, and that we have not taught the next generation the difference," Allen said.

Allen's also said her comments were referring to the work of Dr. James Johnson, a business professor at the University of North Carolina who studies demographics. Johnson, unlike Allen, did disavow the state senator's remarks. "I have been in higher education for 40 years, and I’ve never had anyone spin my research that way," he told the Washington Post.

Three days after Allen apologized for her comments, she took on a more defiant tone while talking about her July 15 speech to Jeff Oravits, a conservative radio host. She repeated her invocation of Johnson and assertion that her comments on "South American countries" referred to socialist nations like Venezuela, rather than race.

Then, Allen criticized the media, her political opponents, and the left for focusing on her immigration remarks.

"This is verbal lynching that is taking place in our country," Allen told Oravits. "It's a political weapon that is being used to silence political leaders like myself."

She added: "Without changing a single word in our constitution, we have successfully put a muzzle on the First Amendment freedom of speech by dissecting every word someone puts out and interpreting what you think they're saying with those words, and trying to shame you and to silence you and to reprogram your thinking and your freedom of thought and expression."

Allen also made clear during the segment that she has no plans to step down. "I want everyone to know that no, I am not resigning, and yes, I am running again for my seat. And I trust the people of District 6 and they know who I am."

During the same radio segment, Oravits also interviewed Republican State Representative Walt Blackman, who represents the same district as Allen. Blackman, who attended the July 15 event in which Allen made her immigration remarks, had previously declined to comment to New Times.

"I've known Senator Allen for a number of years. My children who are biracial call her Aunt Sylvia, even though they are not related," Blackman said. "She brought me in, a black American, to run for office in her district. I have seen her outside the Capitol working with all types of ethnic backgrounds."

Legislative District 6, which Allen represents, comprises parts of Coconino, Gila, Yavapai, and Navajo counties. She is up for re-election in 2020. On the Republican side, primary challenger and perennial candidate Wendy Rogers called Allen's comments "very racist."

Allen's only declared Democratic challenger, Felicia French, issued a statement on Monday criticizing her opponent's remarks.

"The fear and divisiveness Senator Allen is spreading does not align with the values of LD6," French said. "We are a community of hardworking people, who support each other and believe everyone should be treated fairly. Our community needs leaders who embrace all of our residents." 
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Steven Hsieh was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from August 2018 to April 2020.
Contact: Steven Hsieh