*A Nevada assemblyman came under fire Monday after a YouTube video surfaced in which he told a Republican gathering he would vote to allow slavery if that is what his constituents wanted him to do.
“If that’s what they wanted, I’d have to hold my nose … they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah,” Assemblyman Jim Wheeler told members of the Storey County Republican Party at a meeting in August.
His comments were swiftly denounced by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“Assemblyman Wheeler’s comments are deeply offensive and have no place in our society,” Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. “He should retract his remarks and apologize.”
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., called Wheeler’s comments “insensitive and wrong,” while the Assembly Democratic caucus said they were “reprehensible and disgusting.”
Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, on Twitter said Wheeler’s comments are “outrageous, they are embarrassing and they are just plain sad.”
“It’s time for Jim Wheeler to find a new line of work,” Roberson said.
Wheeler, a freshman lawmaker representing District 39, said his remarks were taken out of context and that he was trying to make a point that he was elected to represent his constituents.
At the August GOP meeting, Wheeler referenced a blog post from conservative activist Chuck Muth, who in June 2010 wrote about Wheeler’s candidacy and said, “what if those citizens decided they want to, say, bring back slavery? Hey, if that’s what the citizens want, right Jim?”
Wheeler told his audience he responded to Muth and said, “yeah, I would.”
Reached late Monday, Wheeler said he was falsely being portrayed as a bigot.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I could never vote for something like that,” he said of slavery. “It’s disgusting. It’s beyond disgusting.”
He added, “There is absolutely no room in my life for any bigotry.”
Since the firestorm erupted, Wheeler issued a statement and an apology for the slavery remark.
“The media is having a good time with a clearly facetious statement I made in a town hall meeting earlier this year. 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.”
“During the meeting, I was asked how I would vote if I believed one way on an issue, and my constituents believed the opposite. I stated the truth that I believe, which is that in a Representative Republic I’m hired by the people to represent their views. I used an over the top example of something that I absolutely do not agree with, and even mentioned that to get me to vote for such a thing, my constituents would literally have to hold a gun to my head.”
“In reality, that isn’t the case at all. 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.”
At the end of his statement, Wheeler included an apology.
“If my comments were taken with offense by anyone, I sincerely apologize. I intended the statement as an extreme example of something unacceptable, and hope that’s how it’s taken,” he said.