After his peers voted to remove him from the Arizona Legislature following a damning investigation into his serial sexual harassment, ex-lawmaker Don Shooter is back.
Shooter gave a bizarre one-on-one television interview to a Yuma news station late last week in which he gesticulated, ranted, and glared into the camera as he defended his conduct. He also promoted his improbable quest to return to the Legislature, this time as a state senator.
Sitting in his living room in Phoenix, Shooter criticized the investigation into his alleged personal behavior that caused nearly all of his peers in the House to vote to expel him in February.
"All I did was annoy liberals," Shooter told KYMA. He raised his hand in a you-got-me gesture and looked directly into the lens. "Guilty!” he declared.
Shooter told KYMA-News 11 reporter Vanessa Dillon that he never sexually harassed anyone. “I never was accused of anything unethical or illegal, ever. All I was accused of is annoying people," Shooter said.
Numerous women, including legislators such as Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Capitol lobbyists, accused Shooter of repeated sexual harassment last fall.
A January report by an outside law firm found that Shooter's personal behavior violated the House's harassment policy. “His repeated pervasive conduct has created a hostile working environment for his colleagues and those with business before the Legislature," the report concluded.
The Yuma news station plugged the interview as an exclusive, with Shooter "breaking his silence" to the TV station in an opportunity to tell "his side of the story." To her credit, Dillon pressed Shooter on his denials and directly asked him whether the sexual harassment accusations were true.
But KYMA's two-part interview also includes B-roll footage of framed family photos and a grinning Shooter sitting in the living room next to his wife, who defends Shooter unapologetically as a "character." The interview ultimately leaves the impression that Shooter seized a relatively soft-focus TV spot as the ideal platform to rehabilitate his image and deliver a diatribe in reaction to the #MeToo movement that took him down.
He attributed the investigative report and the House censure that followed to people who felt "offended" by his behavior – behavior which, according to the report, included Shooter repeatedly directing lewd comments and sexual advances toward Ugenti-Rita and other women, and one instance where Shooter grabbed and shook his crotch at a lobbyist for the Arizona Supreme Court.
“I told a joke to somebody, they overheard it. ‘Oh, I’m offended. I’m offended,'" Shooter said in a high-pitched, mocking tone, raising his hands to his face. "So in America, the reason you ruin somebody’s livelihood and reputation and everything is, you’re offended?"
"Liberals offend me every day," he added. "Every day, when they open their mouth. I’m offended, but I don’t get crazy about it.”
Shooter is now staging an ill-advised comeback, running for a State Senate seat in District 13. In possibly the television spot's strangest moment, Shooter says that while assessing whether to run again, they conducted a poll in which voters were asked about sexual harassment by lawmakers.
“One of the questions in the poll was, ‘If you knew a legislator was thrown out of office for sexual harassment, would you be more likely to vote for him, or less likely?’ Which one do you think won?” Shooter asked Dillon.
She said nothing.
“More likely!" Shooter exclaimed. "More likely. I’m just telling you.”
His residence, however, was the subject of a recent legal battle. A Republican opponent in the race, Brent Backus, argued that Shooter does not, in fact, live in District 13, but primarily resides in Phoenix.
Last month, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Shooter can remain on the ballot even though, by his own admission, he lived in the Biltmore neighborhood in 2017 and has remained there since he was fired from the House. Shooter also has an apartment in Yuma. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Shooter also lambasted Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard, telling KYMA, "I was judged by a standard that was made up.”
Shooter filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the state in April; in the filing, Shooter's attorney accused Mesnard and the governor's chief of staff of a conspiracy to remove the embattled lawmaker.
During the interview, the disgraced legislator also accused Mesnard of overseeing a biased investigation and railroading him out of the Capitol.
"He wanted me out badly," Shooter said, explaining that he was poised to expose corruption, although he described the alleged acts in extremely vague terms.
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“I had threatened to uncover millions, tens of millions of dollars of corrupt contracts that were taking place, and as soon as I went and said I was going to use my position as Appropriations chairman to issue subpoenas, all hell broke loose," Shooter said.
Mesnard declined to comment through a spokesperson, citing the pending litigation.
KYMA also interviewed Shooter's wife, Susan, who accused others of lying about her husband. She waved away the numerous sexual harassment accusations against him as unequivocally false.
Susan Shooter said, "He is not a sexual predator. He is just a character."