A Nevada Republican Assemblyman said he would vote to reinstate slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted, in a recently deleted YouTube video that emerged Monday.
“If that’s what they wanted, I’d have to hold my nose, I’d have to bite my tongue, and they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head,” Assemblyman Jim Wheeler told a gathering of the Storey County Republican Party in August. The video, reposted by Reno TV station KTVN, is available here.
Wheeler insisted he was being “facetious” in his comments.
“The media is having a good time with a clearly facetious statement I made in a town hall meeting earlier this year,” Wheeler said in a statement released on his website. “They’re attempting to spin an extreme example I used about supporting my constituents to accuse me of being racist. Anybody that knows me knows that’s absurd, and anyone that views the comments in context understands that the whole point of the example is that racism of any kind is something that I find completely unacceptable.”
But he also backtracked from the original comments, noting that he would not actually vote for slavery, even if his constituents “held a gun to his head.”
“In reality, that isn’t the case at all,” he said. “If my constituents wanted to do something as outlandish as bring back an abhorrent system, then I simply couldn’t represent them anymore. They would remove me from office, or I’d have to resign.”
“If my comments were taken with offense by anyone, I sincerely apologize. Iintended the statement as an extreme example of something unacceptable, and hope that’s how it’s taken,” he added.
Before his apology, Wheeler drew the ire of many in his own party, including his fellow Republican, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who blasted him on Twitter and insinuated he should resign.
Wheeler told the Las Vegas Sun he thinks the attention to the statement proves “liberal” operatives are “trying to frame him as a bigot.”
State and national level Republicans criticized the comments too, with Gov. Brian Sandoval saying Wheeler’s comments were “deeply offensive,” and Sen. Dean Heller adding they were “insensitive and wrong,” according to the Associated Press.
Wheeler was responding to a post from a blogger named Chuck Muth when he made the controversial comments. Back in 2010, when Wheeler was a candidate for office, Muth criticized Wheeler for claiming he had no political agenda.
“Then why in the world is [Wheeler] running for POLITICAL OFFICE?” Muth wrote. “And if ‘what matters most’ is the opinions of the citizens of his district – as opposed to, you know, that Constitution thingy – what if those citizens decided they wanted to, say, bring back slavery? Hey, if it’s what the citizens want, right Jim?”