State Ed Board asks McPherson to quit over racist blog posts; he refuses
January 29th, 2015
The Nebraska State Board of Education voted today to ask Pat McPherson to resign from the board over racist posts on a blog he edited. McPherson refused, saying the posts weren’t his, and he’s not a racist.
Lincoln, NE – It was the first meeting of the board since controversy erupted over McPherson’s “Objective Conservative” blog. On it, someone referred to President Barack Obama as “our Great Black Leader” adding, quote “actually, if he were a Republican the liberals would call him what he is — a half breed.”[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/legup1_28_15KVNO01.mp3]
McPherson said he didn’t write the post, although he hasn’t said who did. He’s apologized for not doing a better job editing, and discontinued the blog. However, similar statements had reportedly appeared in the past on the blog, all of which has now been taken down.
In the storm of controversy that followed, officials including Gov. Pete Ricketts and Sens. Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer, all Republicans as is McPherson, called on him to resign. Wednesday, his fellow members on the State Board of Education took up the issue. Board President Rachel Wise read a resolution for them to consider.
“Whereas the State Board of Education abhors racism in all forms, expects respect and civility be shown to all people, including the President of the United States, and whereas there are several reports of racist, demeaning and derogatory comments posted on a blog titled “Objective Conservative since 2011, and whereas the State Board of Education understands that blog was founded and co-edited by State Board member Pat McPherson,” Wise began.
She continued for another couple of minutes before getting to the heart of the matter. “Now, therefore be it resolved that the State Board of Education joins Nebraska Gov. Ricketts, U.S. Senator Fischer, U.S. Senator Sasse among others to call on State Board member Pat McPherson to resign his position on the State Board of Education.”
State Board member Glenn Flint wanted to drop the references to other people calling for McPherson’s resignation. “This is a logical fallacy – a bandwagon. We don’t need to approve this simply because everybody else does. That’s the same argument your teenager does when they want to stay up til 2 o’clock in the morning – “All my friends do this,” he said.
No other board member supported Flint’s motion. Then it was McPherson’s turn. He began reading a statement. “I’ve apologized for the offensive statement which appeared on the blog that I founded nearly nine years ago. Over those years more than 7,000 posts were made by many individuals, and I admittedly was negligent in policing many of those posts,” he said.
McPherson then suggested the controversy was being stoked by people upset that he was elected last November. “Much of the frenzy around this has been stirred by political interests who opposed me in the election. Having not won the election, they’ve sought to overturn it by using the ‘racist’ appellation. They further intimidated political leaders to ask for my resignation by suggesting that if they didn’t, they were in effect racist themselves,” he said.
During the campaign, McPherson’s opponent, Bob Meyers, received $25,000 in contributions from the Nebraska State Education Association, the teachers union. McPherson received more than $10,000 from Gov. Rickett’s mother, Marlene Ricketts, as well as $500 from Pete Ricketts himself.
McPherson, whose campaign biography said he is a former bank manager and small business owner, said he’d hired thousands of people and never been accused by any of them of having any issues with race. He declared that he is not a racist, and continued on to talk about why he ran. “I ran for the board because I believe in providing quality education for all children. I said I would fight for local control of our schools, to provide teachers and school districts the tools to prepare our children for college and real world jobs,” he said.
And he responded to critics who say his presence will disrupt the work of the board. “While I understand the disruption this issue has created, I will not allow it to overturn an election. For those who say my presence – one vote – among those seven other well-intentioned people on this board will impede the board (in) the job it’s doing, I say that that notion is false,” McPherson said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to work in a collaborative manner with you, my board members, on behalf of the children of Nebraska.”
Board member Maureen Nickells, a classroom teacher for 26 years, said teachers are held accountable for their actions. She referred to disciplinary actions in which Assistant Education Commissioner Brian Halstead has spoken. “I have sat in this audience as a guest listening to Mr. Halstead explain when the Board has been asked to consider taking away the license of a teacher because of things they said or did or wrote,” she said. “Most of those teachers, if not all, apologized for their mistakes; they admitted their mistakes, but their districts were not willing to tolerate it.”
And Nickells suggested board members should apply the same standard to themselves. “I think we as a board, when we have to make those decisions for our educators, I believe we need to hold ourselves to the same accountability,” she said.
Board member Lillie Larsen added the State Board’s responsibility is to promote fair and unbiased treatment of all people, respecting principles of civility and inclusion.
The board then voted 6-2 in favor of a resolution calling on McPherson to resign, with the only no votes coming from Flint and McPherson himself. But the board has no legal power to force a resignation, so McPherson remains on the board.
Because the meeting was scheduled as a “retreat” for board members, there was no period for comment from the public. That will come at the next board meeting, scheduled for next Friday, February 6.
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