Assemblyman Jim Wheeler lashed out at the media in a statement issued early this morning, claiming that reporters are trying to spin a video-taped statement to make him seem racist.
Wheeler told the Storey County Republican Central Committee in August that he would support slavery if his constituents wanted it.
A link to the 51-minute long video was sent out to journalists on Monday afternoon. The video was removed from YouTube by the user as of this morning.
In the video he says “I was hired to do a job, and what the people want me to do,” he said at minute 37. “So if it’s clear how constituents want me to vote, that’s how I’m going to vote. Yeah, I would. If that’s what they want, I’d have to hold my nose, I’d have to bite my tongue and they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah, if that’s what the citizens want, the constituency wants.
At 2:53 a.m. Wheeler issued a statement on his website blaming the media for what he called a “firestorm.”
“They’re attempting to spin an extreme example I used about supporting my constituents to accuse me of being racist,” Wheeler said. “Anybody that knows me knows that’s absurd, and anyone that views the comments in context understands that the whole point of the example is that racism of any kind is something that I find completely unacceptable.”
Wheeler was explaining to Republicans why he voted for a law, in this instance Brianna’s law, even though he doesn’t personally think it is constitutional.”
Wheeler said slavery was an “outlandish” example, and that he would resign rather than voting for it.
“Despite the media spin that claims I don’t think for myself, I give careful consideration to the votes I cast, and I find that 99 percent of the time my constituents agree with me. That makes sense – they elected me because they know that my beliefs align with theirs,” he said.
Wheeler concluded with an apology to anyone who was offended by his comments.
“If my comments were taken with offense by anyone, I sincerely apologize. I intended the statement as an extreme example of something unacceptable, and hope that’s how it’s taken and represent the voters of District 39.”
Among those who took offense to the comments were Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller, who both issued statements condemning Wheeler’s statements.
“Assemblyman Wheeler’s comments were insensitive and wrong,” Heller said. “As an elected representative, it is Assemblyman Wheeler’s responsibility to protect Nevadans’ civil liberties at all times. Such statements have no place in public discourse.”
“Assemblyman Wheeler’s comments are deeply offensive and have no place in our society,” Sandoval said.
Wheeler was in the news recently when his former opponent accused him of not maintaining a home in his district. Wheeler moved to Ruhenstroth last month, after listing his official residence as a rental in the Gardnerville Ranchos.
Former Assemblyman Kelly Kite also accused Wheeler of failing to report his income and debts as required by Nevada law on his disclosure forms.