A tea party Republican state legislator in Arizona is apologizing for a series of racially charged tweets where he accused U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of being "soft on crime" in order to keep black people out of prison.
State Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) issued the apology Thursday following tweets he made this week on a series of crime- and race-related issues, the Arizona Republic reported. In one he called a rodeo clown who wore a President Barack Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair causing recent controversy, "crowd pleasing," the Phoenix New Times reported.
Thorpe has locked his Twitter account from public view, but the Phoenix New Times posted copies before it was blocked. Thorpe mentioned three black teens who were arrested for allegedly beating a white teen and asked, "where's liberal press, the racial outcry now?" In the Holder tweets, Thorpe wrote, "Why is Holder now soft on crime? Perhaps: blacks = 12% - 13% US population, but make up 40.1% (2.1 million) of male inmates in jail or prison?"
Thorpe was criticized by Democratic lawmakers for the tweets. When state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix), a 2014 gubernatorial candidate, called Thorpe's Holder tweet "offensive, ridiculous and exactly why the tea party needs to go," Thorpe accused Campbell of supporting more crime.
The Arizona Republic reported that Thorpe said the tweets were “poorly worded and did not reflect what I genuinely wanted to communicate about recent national news stories.” Thorpe did not explain what he planned to communicate. The Associated Press reported that Thorpe said the tweets were "never intended to be insensitive or divisive."
Thorpe has issued a series of apologizes for his behavior before. In April, he was forced to cancel a bulletproof vest sale he organized for lawmakers in the state Capitol basement after being criticized. He said that after the 2011 shooting of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in Tucson he felt lawmakers should have access to body armor. In May, he apologized when a Republican colleague got a threatening message after Thorpe asked his constituents to contact Republicans who were supporting Gov. Jan Brewer's (R) Medicaid expansion plan.
Campbell told The Huffington Post on Friday that he believes Thorpe was just following the tea party playbook of "fear-mongering." He also noted that Thorpe's apology focused on communication style, not on what he said.
"If you read his quote-unquote apology, he is not apologizing for the content but how it is worded," Campbell said. "This is boilerplate tea party, this is how they operate."
An assistant at his state Capitol office in Phoenix said Thorpe was not in the office Friday.