Publisher says Ariz. lawmaker made offensive remarks

Bob Christie
Associated Press

Phoenix — The publisher of Arizona’s largest newspaper on Friday joined a growing list of women who say a top Republican state lawmaker subjected them to inappropriate sexual comments or actions.

Arizona Republic Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish wrote in a column published online that state Rep. Don Shooter made a strikingly inappropriate comment to her during a meeting last year in his statehouse office about legislation opposed by the newspaper.

Parish wrote that Shooter told her he was a free thinker and had done everything on his “bucket list,” except for “those Asian twins in Mexico.”

Parrish is Asian-American and serves as president and publisher of the Republic and previously held the same jobs at The Kansas City Star and The Idaho Statesman. She’s twice served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, is a longtime member of the Asian American Journalists Association and serves on several boards, including that of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

Shooter is already the subject of an investigation launched by the Arizona House this week after a lawmaker accused him of repeatedly making unwanted advances.

Shooter denied Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita allegations this week and leveled his own against her, accusing her of pursuing an affair with a House staffer. But several other women have come forward with similar charges about Shooter’s behavior since Ugenti-Rita gave a television interview that aired Tuesday, including allegations of inappropriate sexually-tinged comments or unwanted touching.

Shooter issued a statement Wednesday saying he requested the investigation, and “therefore I am unable to comment further except to provide my full support and cooperation.” He’s since referred questions to his attorney, who hasn’t elaborated.

Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard appointed two House attorneys to lead an investigation into the claims. They will be joined by several staffers from the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

Parrish wrote that she initially brushed off Shooters’ comment, chalking it up as “just another remark in a long, long list of offensive, obnoxious, ignorant, destructive things said to me and others by people with some power or sway.”

But she said she now realizes “It wasn’t OK. And it wasn’t OK for me to be OK with it. For me to put up with it. To laugh it off, to excuse it, to use it as a cocktail-party tale.”

The developments in Arizona’s statehouse comes after a flood of allegations sparked by an October report in the New York Times alleging that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed or assaulted several women. Other entertainment industry figures, business people, newsroom leaders and politicians at several statehouses have since faced similar charges.

Shooter, who wields considerable power as head of the House Appropriations Committee, is known around the Capitol as a politically-incorrect, booze-loving jokester. The Yuma lawmaker was elected to the Senate in 2010 and led that body’s appropriations committee before moving to the House in 2016.

Minority Democrats have called for him to resign, but for now he’s staying put. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, expressed support for an investigation.

“There can be absolutely no tolerance for sexual harassment in the halls of our state Capitol, or any other organization — private or public,” Ducey said in a Wednesday statement.

The investigation could lead to a formal ethics probe by the Arizona House, which could expel him with a 2/3 vote for “disorderly behavior.”