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Washington Notebook: Pearce defends hiring fiery blogger

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WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., on Wednesday defended his hiring of a communications director who wrote for the PolitixFireball blog, which has published inflammatory rhetoric about Jews, Muslims and President Barack Obama.

Pearce confirmed in a Journal interview Wednesday that his new spokeswoman, Rebekah Stevens, wrote for the controversial blog.

The website has affiliated Facebook and Twitter feeds. The blog and related social media accounts were focused on conservative issues and are well-known in New Mexico for confronting Democrats, journalists and others in sometimes inflammatory ways.

PolitixFireball’s Twitter account, which boasts more than 40,000 followers, is no longer accessible to the general public.

A screen capture of a PolitixFireball tweet, dated March 18 (the year is not specified) and posted Tuesday on the website of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive political group, says in response to another Twitter user: “I know the Jews went up in smoke … I think you’re wrong re: the economy.”

PolitixFireball also has referred to Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Milan Simonich as Slobodan Milosevic, the late Serbian president charged with war crimes, and equated President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. Another social media post from PolitixFireball asserted that Muslims are “blood lust” conquerors.

Pearce, asked about the comments in a Journal interview Wednesday, disavowed them and conceded that Stevens’ past online presence was “very confrontational.”

“They are not things I would have said,” Pearce said. “She’s very aware she doesn’t speak for herself anymore. … She’s working in a bigger system, and we all work together here.”

The conservative congressman said he had a “very frank and straightforward discussion” with Stevens before hiring her. He said he told her such rhetoric is unacceptable in a congressional office. But he also said the 24-year-old Stevens is young, talented and knowledgeable and deserves a chance.

“I want kids working in these offices that have passion for what they’re doing,” Pearce said. “It’s easier to train restraint than energy and enthusiasm. We always look for work attitudes and work ethics. You can’t train those things.”

Stevens, who has worked on Pearce’s past political campaigns and serves as vice chairwoman of the Grant County Republican Party in New Mexico, did not respond to a request for comment from the Journal on Wednesday.

Pearce said PolitixFireball not only ruffled Democrats’ and reporters’ feathers but also those of some Republicans.

“Republicans are making hay of (her hiring), too,” Pearce said. “My deal is we look for people who can do the job.”

Michael Coleman can be reached at mcoleman@abqjournal.com.

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