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Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stumps for then-candidate Donald Trump.EXPAND
Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stumps for then-candidate Donald Trump.
Miriam Wasser

Arizona Republic's Hiring of Jan Brewer Sparks Debate on White Supremacy

In an appeal to the state's MAGA wing, the Arizona Republic added a marquee name to its slate of opinion columnists.

Former Governor Jan Brewer announced that she has "become enjoined to be a contributor" at the paper. The Republic dropped its big news Saturday in a video featuring Brewer and E.J. Montini, the paper's rapid responder for milquetoast liberal takes.

"Tired of liberal rants?" the Republic tweeted. "We've recruited a champion of the right — a former governor, to boot — to give voice to Arizona conservatives."

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Brewer's new gig prompted heated debate between journalists, politicians, and lobbyists over her record as governor, the meaning of "white supremacist," and the boundaries of acceptable discourse in a mainstream publication.

Critics argued that hiring Brewer amounts to providing a platform for hate and crankery. Some said they'd cancel their subscriptions over the new hire. Supporters of the decision said Brewer reflects a strain of hard-right conservatism prevalent in Arizona, but underrepresented in the Republic's opinion section.

Several detractors said Brewer's signing of SB 1070 — the "show me your papers" law — should disqualify her from getting a platform in the Republic. Democratic State Representative Athena Salman, calling Brewer a "white supremacist," also pointed to the former governor's support for laws prohibiting DACA recipients from getting driver's licenses and banning Mexican-American studies in public schools.

Luige del Puerto, editor and associate publisher of the Arizona Capitol Times, pushed back against Salman, asking her whether anyone who supported the aforementioned policies would qualify as a white supremacist.

"Those policies are racist," Salman responded. "You may not be able to say everyone who supported SB 1070 is a white supremacist, but every white supremacist loves SB 1070."

In came Republican State Representative T.J. Shope, who noted that he is half-Latino and supported all three policies in question. "Does that make me a white supremacist or is that label thrown around so much these days that it has almost no meaning?" Shope wrote.

Will Gaona, a staffer for Phoenix City Councilwoman Vania Guevara, said the resources spent on Brewer's column could be put to better use.

"As a subscriber, I believe I’d get more value from additional reporting than this column. That calculation could be different for a different columnist," he wrote to del Puerto of the Capitol Times, who appeared to spend the greater part of Sunday engaging critics of the Republic's newest hire.

Chris Herstam, a former Arizona Republican who recently switched parties, agreed with Gaona, noting the recent layoff of Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Steve Benson.

"Benson or Brewer? Easy journalistic choice," he wrote.

The debate over Brewer mirrors a national debate over opinion sections as social media democratizes the art of punditry, once reserved for elites, while simultaneously hardening our political bubbles. Which views belong in the public discourse? Which views belong in the dust bin? Who deserves a platform? Who is missing from the debate? Do we even need opinion sections anymore?

New hires become flash points in the debate. At the New York Times, there was Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens. At The Atlantic, there was Kevin Williamson. At the Republic, it's Brewer.

Her hiring makes her the most conservative Republic opinion writer in a list that includes Robert Robb, Phil Boas, and Jon Gabriel. On the left, the paper has Montini, Laurie Roberts, and Elvia Diaz. Joanna Allhands opines about water, while Abe Kwok takes on city issues. 

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