The head of New Mexico’s All Indian Pueblo Council on Saturday demanded that Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers be removed from his post following disclosure of an email appearing to suggest Gov. Susana Martinez “dishonored Col. Custer” by meeting with tribal leaders.
Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Monty Newman responded with criticism of Rogers’ remarks in the June email – which Rogers called an attempt at humor and apologized for – but stopped short of calling for removal of the Albuquerque lawyer from the elected party post.
Newman also said criticism of Rogers’ comments are timed to create a political stir as Republicans prepare to start their presidential nominating convention this week in Tampa, where Martinez is scheduled to be a featured speaker.
Pueblo Council Chairman Chandler Sanchez said Rogers’ remarks were “racist in tone,” and appeared directed at the tribal leaders who met with Martinez at a tribal summit in June in Mescalero – an annual meeting the New Mexico governor is required by state law to attend.
“I call upon the Republican National Committee to remove Mr. Rogers from his official capacity within the committee,” Sanchez said Saturday. “… His statement that Custer is some kind of hero demanding deference is offensive. We have come a long way in demanding racial tolerance and acceptance in the 21st century. But remarks and statements like those written by attorney Pat Rogers sadly make you wonder if the Republican Party and those who represent Governor Martinez share his views and attitude toward the Native populations of this state.”
The All Indian Pueblo Council is a political coalition of New Mexico’s 20 sovereign pueblo governments.
Rogers on Friday said he meant no offense to Native Americans in the private email to top members of Martinez’s staff and her political consultant. The email apparently was obtained by political opponents and then was made public Friday by the Democratic-leaning group ProgressNow New Mexico.
Rogers could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
“The exaggerated attempt at humor in Committeeman Rogers’ email regarding the governor’s important meeting with tribal leaders does not reflect the views of the Republican Party of New Mexico. However, we recognize and support the apology he has given,” Newman said.
Rogers’ email said in part, “The state is going to hell. Col. Weh would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.”
Retired Marine Corps Col. Allen Weh was Martinez’s 2010 Republican primary election opponent. The reference to Custer was to George Armstrong Custer, who led U.S. military campaigns against Plains Indians in the late 1800s and died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
Rogers on Friday would not elaborate on the meaning of the email other than to say it was meant to be humorous and that it was being distorted by political opponents.
The Governor’s Office on Friday said Martinez doesn’t agree with Rogers’ comments and is proud of the relationship she has maintained with New Mexico’s tribal governments. Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell declined to comment on the All Indian Pueblo Council chairman’s letter on Saturday.
Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera said the statement by the pueblo council chairman unfairly shifts blame for Rogers’ comments to the governor and her staff, who he says have been respectful and supportive of the state’s native communities.
“To put it in a nutshell, Pat Rogers deserves whatever he gets for writing something like that, but others (like the governor and her staff) should not be categorized as being accomplices in the writing of that,” Rivera said.
Rogers isn’t alone in New Mexico as a political party representative when it comes to racial and ethnic gaffes.
Democratic state Rep. Sheryl William Stapleton, the majority whip in the state House and a state Democratic National Committeeperson at-large, referred to Martinez as “the Mexican on the fourth floor” while arguing with a Republican representative at the Capitol in Santa Fe in December.
Stapleton apologized and said she did not intend to make a derogatory comment, although she did not step down from her Democratic party leadership positions.