Arizona Representative David Stringer sent a letter to his House colleagues on Wednesday defending his most recent racist-sounding remarks, and inviting fellow lawmakers to chat with him about his reputation.
Stringer shocked many in the state last year after comments surfaced that made him seem like a white nationalist. His letter, obtained by Phoenix New Times, attempts to win back the support of some of his colleagues, spinning his statements as heavily out-of-context.
"I know that some of you have already spoken with me about media reports accusing me of being a racist, etc.," Stringer wrote to House members. "Much has been made about four words, reported without context, in an effort to make it look like David Stringer says 'blacks don’t blend in' and therefore is a racist. The fact that I was making a larger point about the American melting pot, a point many others have made before me, is left out of the story."
Stringer referred in the letter to his 25 years of work as a trial attorney in Washington D.C., "where the majority of my clients were racial minorities."
And he referred to a 2017 incident in Prescott City Court, where Stringer supposedly represented an African-American client whom he said was targeted by "racial harassment" because of a public nuisance complaint related to her dog.
The legislator claimed that his client's conviction was vacated after he exposed the accuser's history of racial animosity toward neighbors.
"Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother mentioning the story because I did it to help her, not for attention. Yet there are now scores of people claiming I am a racist who know nothing about me, the life I’ve lived, or the people I have helped and continue to help," Stringer wrote.
A Republican legislator from Prescott's District 1, Stringer was re-elected easily to a second term in November despite numerous calls for his resignation from politicians on both sides of the aisle. He returned to the Capitol for the 54th Legislative Session, which began on January 14.
Last summer, Stringer told attendees at a GOP forum that "there aren't enough white kids to go around" in Arizona schools. And in November, Phoenix New Times published recordings of Stringer arguing to a group of Arizona State University students that unlike immigrants from Europe, African-Americans and other racial groups "don't melt in."
"They don't blend in. They always look different," Stringer went on in the recording.
In his letter to House members, Stringer said that during his conversation with the ASU students, he was trying to articulate how racial profiling and prejudice affect African-Americans, as described to him by friends and clients. He claimed he merely chose the wrong words.
"My off the cuff remarks to a few ASU students who followed me into an elevator were an attempt to capture those sentiments, and I readily confess that I wasn’t choosing my words carefully in anticipation that they would be selectively excerpted, then trumpeted to the world for a specific and damaging purpose," Stringer wrote.
He said that House members who read a transcript of his remarks "will note portions where one of the students kept trying to put ugly words in my mouth, and I had to keep pointing out that I was not saying what he was saying."
"I regret not recognizing the trap and simply walking away, but I thought I was having a conversation with a group of students who were genuinely concerned about matters of race, where we were headed as a country, and how to overcome the challenges we face," Stringer continued.
During the conversation with the ASU students, Stringer also referred to non-native English-speaking students in schools as a "significant burden" on taxpayers, and claimed that Hispanic voters lean toward the Democratic Party because their primary political issue is "bringing more people like them into the country."
However, Stringer did not address these comments and others in his explanation to House colleagues.
In the aftermath of his inflammatory remarks to the ASU students, Stringer resigned his chairmanship of the House Sentencing and Recidivism Reform Committee at the request of House Speaker Rusty Bowers, and lost two more committee assignments shortly thereafter.
In his letter, Stringer suggested that a racist would not prioritize criminal justice reform the way that he has, although he did not mention that he was stripped of his committee chairmanship.
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"Even the most stubborn accuser will note that Criminal Justice Reform is hardly the personal cause of a racist, yet again, my work and history is ignored so that the accusations can have center stage," Stringer wrote.
He invited colleagues who have not spoken to him about his remarks already to do so, if what they've read about him has made them mad. He asked them not to judge him "based on selective reporting of words taken out of context."
"I want to hear directly from you and I want you to hear directly from me, without a media filter making a mess of things," Stringer wrote.
The embattled lawmaker signed off with the following: "P.S. I’m attaching an op-ed I wrote that appeared in Prescott eNews in celebration of our MLK holiday. I hope you’ll read it and let me know your thoughts."