WASHINGTON – Like the Republican National Committee (RNC), several top Democrats have stopped short of calling for the dismissal of Pat Rogers, the RNC executive committeeman who said that Col. George Armstrong Custer was “dishonored” when New Mexico’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez recently met with American Indians at a tribal summit.
Democrats have roundly denounced Rogers’ words, which he wrote in an e-mail to the governor’s staff earlier this year.
His specific words were, “The state is going to hell. “Col. [Allen] Weh would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.” Weh was a Republican candidate for governor of New Mexico in 2010 who ran against Martinez, and Weh, too, has denounced Rogers’ e-mail, calling it “prejudiced.”
The message was publicized by liberal advocacy organizations—including ProgessNow New Mexico, which has called for his firing.
Elected Democrats in New Mexico widely agree that the statements were wrong – and many have pounced – but most have not called for his resignation.
"Republican National Committee leader Pat Rogers' comments were highly disrespectful and incredibly offensive to those of us who value the tremendous contributions that Native Americans have made to New Mexico and our nation," said Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who is running for the U.S. Senate and has closely courted the Native vote in his state.
"It's unbelievable that a Republican National Committee leader – and someone so closely tied to the Martinez administration – would say something so reckless and disrespectful,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. “These types of deplorable actions have no place in politics or government, and they should be condemned by Governor Romney, Governor Martinez, and the RNC."
"Pat Rogers' comments were highly offensive, but I'm not sure Sen. Udall's opinion has much clout with Republican leaders on this one," added Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Spokespersons for Heinrich and Udall did not respond to questions on why the legislators were not calling for Rogers’ firing from the RNC.
On that question, Luján expanded: "It's up to Republicans to decide if they want someone who holds such offensive views toward Native Americans to represent them as a leader in their party."
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has also not responded to requests for comment on whether leaders there believe Rogers should be dismissed.
The RNC previously told Indian Country Today Media Network that Rogers’ apology to an Albuquerque newspaper in which he said that he was joking was sufficient, and that no further action was anticipated. Martinez and Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Monty Newman have both said Rogers was wrong, but they, too, have not called for him to resign.
While top Republican and Democratic politicos have been slow to call for Rogers’ dismissal, some Indians and Native groups have not been so hesitant. Members of the All Indian Pueblo Council, the Navajo Nation, the Acoma Pueblo, and other individual Indians have all pushed for his exit.
“I call upon the Republican National Committee to remove Mr. Rogers from his official capacity within the committee,” All Indian Pueblo Council Chairman Chandler Sanchez told the Albuquerque Journal on August 26. “His statement that Custer is some kind of hero demanding deference is offensive.”
Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation, cautioned, however, not to expect all tribes to drop everything to work for Rogers’ ouster: “We’ve got a lot of pressing issues—budgets, layoffs, issues that hit closer to home than whether someone should lose their job for supporting Custer.”