Jim Wheeler says he'd 'vote to allow slavery' if constituents wanted it
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - 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."
In a letter posted to his official website, Wheeler decried the media for blowing out of proportion a "clearly facetious statement."
"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," Wheeler wrote.
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."