Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 24, 2014


Host: Ted Simons

Huppenthal Anonymous Comments


  • Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal has been facing increasing pressure for anonymous comments he’s made online, with some calling for his resignation. Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic will bring us up to date.
Guests:
  • Laurie Roberts - Journalist, Arizona Republic
Category: Politics   |   Keywords: politics, anonymous, comments, online, arizona, superintendent, public, resignation,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal continues to face heat for posting controversial, and, at the time, anonymous online comments on various political blogs. Here with more is "Arizona Republic" columnist Laurie Roberts. Good to see you again. We always bring you in on these stories that defy definition. What do you make of all of this?

Laurie Roberts: You know, it is hard to understand, to get yourself into the head of a guy who has been a long-time public official who has gone out for years with a mask on anonymously posting blogs, some of them historically inaccurate, some of them just blatantly insulting and some people would say bordering on racism. I have to believe that things you would say anonymously when you think no one can hear you or see you are things that come from the heart.

Ted Simons: It is interesting, you mention that, the idea of how discourse may have changed or seemingly has changed because of anonymous online posting as such. Back to the idea, is it more of a problem for you what he said or the fact that he said it anonymously?

Laurie Roberts: Originally my biggest concern was not so much that he was saying things anonymously, but that he -- you know, about historical things and public policy issues, but that he was deceitful in talking about himself in glowing terms in the third party. That is trying to fool people, that's deceitful, that's wrong. Since then however these comments have been being dug out of the web, some of the comments are just disturbing. I took one down today and I will read it to you if that is okay. We had a lot fewer Caucasians working now that the Hispanics have left. Speaking of Senate bill era. But crime is much lower. No money and no one is stealing it.

Ted Simons: We also have the idea that maybe there shouldn't be Spanish radio TV, newspapers, billboards, menus are okay as long as it is a Mexican restaurant --

Laurie Roberts: As long as it is mostly in English. I found that one particularly shocking. I would think that most republicans are entrepreneurial and for free enterprise. This is a man who for the last few weeks has talked to us about his first amendment right to free speech even if speech is anonymous. I guess the first amendment right to free speech does not extend to if you are speaking in Spanish.

Ted Simons: Does he have a point -- I know he goes back to the federalist papers and the pamphlets -- when the country was started and those of us in political science have read all of those things. How much of a point does he have about how much discourse in American history and how much of a tradition it made be to say things anonymously?

Laurie Roberts: I think it has been a tradition in American history, but I don't think it is a particularly helpful one now. I will segue from this to dark money, which you will see a lot of rolling down the hill. A lot of people are using the laws that we have now to speak from behind the bushes and to log grenades. I think that we need to know who has something to say. I know in the days of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, there were things that they needed to say that they felt were unpopular. I don't think the things that I'm reading are high-level public policy debates. A lot of it is downright racist and insulting and rude and this is from a man who is the superintendent of public schools, 45% of which are comprised of Latino students.

Ted Simons: Not only the Latino aspect, but just the general recollection of history with FDR -- I think it was almost completely responsible for the depression, responsible for Hitler, CPS never protects children. These are things -- I would love to get him on the program. Why would you even feel the need to comment on those sorts of things?

Laurie Roberts: Well, I think he views himself as a public policy WONK -- I have not talked to him about this. I've tried. They have not responded to me. I guess he would say if he were engaging in these public policy high-level discussions, high-level discussions as you get on the internet, that if people knew that it was John Huppenthal that they were talking with, it would impede the conversation. I'm guessing that is what he would say. But a lot of this is just historically inaccurate. It's disturbing.

Ted Simons: Well, it is the name calling thing, which, again, calling people on assistance lazy pigs. Calling the president slime. Back to my original question here and your original response, is the internet and commenting and we see it on The Arizona Republic all of the time. Facebook aspect helped a little bit. But we see out and out name calling, rock throwing, is this the way we always were and now we get a chance to show it?

Laurie Roberts: I think actually so. If you know your Plato, there is something called the Ring of Gyges, which says that if you put on a magical ring and no one can see you, you would do all kinds of things that you wouldn't have done. I don't think it is new.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the creditability now he has in that office. What is going on out there?

Laurie Roberts: Some people think these comments will actually help him win the republican primary. That is an interesting thought. He has primary competition, Diane Douglas, who is a tea party type I think. Her entire platform seems to be get rid of common core. He may well be -- he is a common core supporter.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Laurie Roberts: I just don't see how he gets through a general election. I think this may be that year when we have two sitting statewide officers who are going to be out on their tushes.

Ted Simons: Before anyone gets out on their tush, the impact to education in Arizona when you have a state schools chief, with a historical inaccuracies and the name calling, what does that do just in general to education in Arizona?

Laurie Roberts: I think it makes people around the country say now we understand why Arizona has the education system that it has. I don't think that it necessarily hurts in the classroom. I certainly do not think that he is emulating -- a good role model for students. Most educators I talk to are rolling their eyes at this point. I'm going to guess he will not be invited in as a guest speaker in any history classes in any of our high schools anytime soon.

Ted Simons: And we had the former Superintendents of public instruction Lisa Graham Keegan, Jaime Molera, they’re both saying that they think he should just go ahead and resign -- are you hearing more of that out there?

Laurie Roberts: I tried to talk to -- about his comments about Latinos yesterday. I was talking to various Latino citizens, prominent people and I tried not to go to the usual suspects who will always cry racism. I went to some people who I think are very thoughtful. Not to mean that the others aren't. They are not going to lob bombs. Ernie Calderon was one of those people -- told me yes, he thinks it is time for him to resign. I was surprised. I think as more of these comments are coming out there’s going to be more of a call for that. The public has called for leave it alone, leave it on the ballot and let the voters decide. It will be up to John Huppenthal what he wants to do. I want to point out that Huppenthal has had these sorts of issues before. If you go back a few years, you may remember the Wikipedia incidents where he went in and changed Wikipedia entries to boost himself and to sort of denigrate his competition, his opponents. So, you know, I think he has been doing this for a long time.

Ted Simons: Last question. And this is maybe a little far afield, but should the superintendent of public instruction be an elected position? Because some critics of Huppenthal, even before he -- when he was running the first time, the guy is not an education -- a background in education, other than being a lawmaker that focused on education. Is this the kind of thing you get when you have an elected position, you have inherent political types doing inherently political type things?

Laurie Roberts: Kind of like when you have an elected sheriff or elected county attorney and a lot of other things. I think it is a very good question. Troubling to me is the fact that I don't believe we've had anybody serve as state superintendent who actually taught in a public school classroom, probably not since Diane bishop --

Ted Simons: Why is that? What are voters looking for?

Laurie Roberts: Politicians.

Ted Simons: They're looking for the -- I guess if you're a politician and you are running for office you automatically have a leg up.

Laurie Roberts: They seem to. They seem to do that. A woman running on the democratic side -- a man and woman are running and both have education credentials. It will be interesting to see how voters figure that out. Yeah, I think you could call in to question whether we're -- whether these are elected posts, but they're going to be. So, that is what we got.

Ted Simons: Between HORNE and Huppenthal, can you remember this kind of activity in a political season?

Laurie Roberts: No, I would seriously imagine that this -- if they're both knocked off, which I expect, that it may be the first time in maybe the history of state that you have had two sitting incumbents knocked off.

Ted Simons: A pleasure. Good to see you.

Laurie Roberts: Good to see you.

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