When an Arizona Republican decried immigration as an “existential threat to the United States” and claimed that “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” in Arizona’s public schools, his comments unsurprisingly drew criticism from the left.
But state Rep. David Stringer’s controversial statements also sparked a rebuke from members of his own political party, some of whom are now calling for his resignation.
In a statement Thursday, the Arizona Republican Party called for Stringer to step down.
“In light of today’s reports detailing Representative David Stringer’s comments, I am calling on him to resign immediately,” Chairman Jonathan Lines said in the statement. “These words have no place in our party, or in our state.”
A spokesman for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey also tweeted that the governor “agrees” with Lines “and supports this call.”
Arizona’s Republican speaker of the House, J.D. Mesnard, also criticized Stringer’s views but did not explicitly call on him to resign.
“I completely disagree that immigration poses a threat to the United States,” Mesnard said in a statement Thursday. “We are a nation of immigrants — we have been since before our founding and will continue to be as our country remains a beacon of freedom and opportunity around the world. While some find challenge in diversity, I believe that any challenge makes us better for it.”
Mesnard said Stringer’s “future in the Legislature will be up to him and the voters.”
Stringer, a first-term representative, was speaking at the Yavapai County Republican Men’s Forum and discussing his views on a range of topics such as criminal justice reform and the Second Amendment. His remarks were live-streamed on Facebook.
“Before I conclude, I want to touch on what I consider my top priority … my top political priority, my top issue,” Stringer said at around the video’s 15-minute mark.
That issue was immigration and Stringer let loose.
He warned that because of the volume of immigration into the U.S. over the last several decades, states including Texas, Florida and Arizona have “flipped” or “are imminently going to flip to become minority majority states.”
Stringer then called attention to the proportion of minority children attending Arizona’s public schools.
“Sixty percent of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities,” he said. “That complicates racial integration because there aren’t enough white kids to go around.”
In 10 or 15 years, Stringer claimed, the staggering number of minority students would lead to a change in the demographics of the state’s voting base.
“That’s what’s going on around the country,” he said. “Immigration is politically destabilizing. President Trump has talked about it. I’m very concerned about this. Immigration today represents an existential threat to the United States.”
He ended his speech on an even more ominous note.
“If we don’t do something about immigration very, very soon, the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed and it will be a very different country and it will not be the country you were born into,” he said.
Stringer’s words drew widespread attention when a 51-second clip of his speech was posted to Twitter and Facebook Tuesday by David Schapira, a Democratic candidate for Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction.
Schapira called the comments “overtly racist,” adding that “it’s time to remove xenophobic radicals from elected office.”
As of early Friday morning, the video had garnered more than 93,000 views on Twitter. On Facebook it had been watched about 47,000 times as of Thursday night.
The response was immediate from Democrats and immigration supporters.
“There should be no place for individuals like David Stringer in the Arizona Legislature,” tweeted Steve Weichert, who is running for the state senate.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Farley wrote, “America is a nation of immigrants & bigotry has absolutely no place in the great state of Arizona. I am appalled by Rep. David Stringer’s recent comments.”
House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D-Phoenix,) joined the chorus, issuing a scathing statement Wednesday, azcentral.com reported.
Rios called Stringer’s speech “yet another source of national embarrassment for our state,” adding that it was “disturbing” that “there did not appear to be single murmur of disagreement from the audience.”
“We work side by side with Rep. Stringer and our Republican colleagues and want to think the best of them,” she said. “But when will they stand up to divisive rhetoric like this that echoes fervent racists and white nationalists like David Duke?”
Following the backlash, Stringer defended his statements in an interview with the Arizona Capitol Times.
While he apologized for offending anyone, he said drawing attention to the racial breakdown of students in Arizona’s public schools is “not a racist comment, it’s a statement of fact.”
“I maybe touched a third rail of politics but what I said is accurate,” Stringer said. “Anybody that talks about this in this way is shut down and called a racist. I’m speaking the truth. Diversity may be a great thing, there might be a lot of advantages, I’m not arguing against diversity at all, but no country can be demographically transformed without any political or social consequences.”
On Thursday, Stringer continued to stand behind what he said, posting a lengthy statement to Facebook.
“My political opponents have taken 51 seconds out of a 16 minute speech to try to distort my message and mislead voters,” Stringer wrote. “My comments about school integration were factually accurate and were intended to illustrate the challenges facing successful integration when white students are a rapidly declining percentage of the whole. This issue cries out for honest and open public discussion.”
Stringer has not commented on the calls for his resignation, but his statement ended on a defiant tone.
“I am not afraid of conservative bigwigs and I’m not afraid of liberal bullies either,” he wrote. “Anyone who doubts this is welcome to come hear me speak and judge for yourself if I am a truth teller.”