Flagstaff lawmaker Rep. Bob Thorpe apologizes for offensive tweets

PHOENIX - An Arizona lawmaker apologized Thursday for a series of online posts that many Democrats and civil rights activists viewed as racially offensive.

Republican Rep. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff criticized Attorney General Eric Holder for proposing changes to the nation's sentencing laws, suggesting he did so to benefit fellow blacks. He also posted a tweet supporting a Missouri rodeo clown who riled up a crowd as a masked man imitating President Barack Obama.

It marked the latest in a series of missteps that prompted apologies by the freshman lawmaker since he took office in January. They include sending a blast email to opponents of Medicaid that prompted threats to Republican backers of its expansion in Arizona, a proposal to require loyalty oaths for high school graduates and a canceled plan to sell bullet-proof vests out of the basement of the state Capitol.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, rebuked Thorpe for the Medicaid email  that prompted a public apology. Tobin's spokesman said he did the same thing after learning of Thorpe's latest action, calling him and telling him he was "dismayed and disappointed" and suggesting he apologize.

Thorpe's Thursday apology came after his comments on Twitter drew fire from Democratic lawmakers and a Phoenix civil rights activist. He later shut down public access to his posts.

Thorpe declined to comment beyond a statement saying he "never intended to be insensitive or divisive."

"I acknowledge that they were poorly worded and did not reflect what I genuinely wanted to communicate about recent national news stories," Thorpe wrote. "Although I never intended to be insensitive or divisive, I quickly realized that my tweets were causing a few readers to believe that my motives were not as I intended them to appear."

Thorpe, a tea party conservative with no previous political experience, has called his previous missteps "rookie mistakes."

Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said at some point Thorpe's actions go beyond inexperience.

"It's the same tactic that hardcore conservatives have been using for a long time, it's race baiting,"  Quezada said. "It's making people afraid of certain groups and using statistics that have multiple different explanations to justify fear-mongering."


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