The former top Republican in the Arizona Senate apologized on Monday night for blaming the victims of the Colorado theater massacre for not having enough courage to stop the shooter.
Former Senate President Russell Pearce, who voters threw out of office in a recall last year but who is campaigning to regain his old seat, took to Facebook to say he was sorry for his commentary, which he said he wrote when “my heart was heavy.”
“There comes a time when explaining stops making sense and you are better off simply apologizing,” Pearce wrote. “So for those who were offended by my post regarding the shootings in Aurora, please accept my apologies.”
Before he was recalled last year, Pearce was one of the most powerful politicians in Arizona and regularly advocated for an expansion of gun rights, including allowing them on college campuses. Even after the recall, he rode the notoriety he gained in office for sponsoring the state’s infamous immigration law, known as SB1070, which the U.S. Supreme Court largely struck down last month.
In the original Facebook post, Pearce questioned why nobody in the movie theater had the guns or bravery to stop the shooter, who ended up killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. He said the man, who authorities said was dressed head to toe in body armor and armed with four guns, could have been shot or somehow otherwise stopped when he took a moment to reload.
“Someone should have stopped this man. Someone could have stopped this man,” he wrote on Saturday morning. “All that was needed was one Courages/Brave (sic) man prepared mentally or otherwise to stop this it could have been done.”
By Monday, Pearce’s comments had already spread across the nation. It also turned out that one of the victims of the massacre, Alex Teves, 24, was from Phoenix, having graduated high school just a few miles from the district Pearce is hoping to represent.
Then later in the day, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R) took the rare step of getting involved in state legislative politics and announced he was endorsing Pearce’s opponent, businessman Bob Worsley, in the Republican primary.
At 8:11 p.m., Pearce returned to Facebook to apologize. His original post had been deleted. He said he was reluctant to make the apology and still believed in gun rights. But the uproar had forced him to retract what he said.
“I will never understand policies that disarm honest citizens and leave them vulnerable to the premeditated attacks of madmen, but it is still far too early for any sort of discussion over how to prevent the next such attack,” he wrote. “For now, I remain very sorry for my remarks and any possible pain they may have caused.”
Read his whole apology:
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com