--2 Week Into Job, Pearce Press Secretary Resigns
         
Sept. 26, 2016
Fireball

Rep. Steve Pearce Press Secretary Resigns

Rebekah Stevens' online past catches up with the young party activist

March 28, 2014, 9:00 am
By Justin Horwath
Following revelations that she ran an inflammatory Twitter account, Rebekah Stevens resigned as US Rep. Steve Pearce's press secretary days after starting the job.

"I am proud to hire passionate, hardworking, and dedicated congressional staff out of New Mexico,” Pearce says in a statement released today. “When I hired Miss Stevens, I hoped she could transition from activist to become an asset to the people of New Mexico. It is now clear that major obstacles will prevent this. I asked for and accepted her resignation this morning. I hold myself and my staff to the highest level of accountability, and any distractions that hinder my service to New Mexicans must always be addressed.”

Before Stevens' hiring, she protected the @PolitixFireball Twitter account that accumulated more than 40,000 followers and sent out a prolific amount of messages, over 60,000, which were often attacks against her perceived political enemies made anonymously under the online pseudonym. But the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow New Mexico saved some of her more incendiary tweets about Jews, Muslims and President Obama. 

“They are not things I would have said,” the Congressman told the Albuquerque Journal in a Thursday article. Sources close to the Congressman say Pearce was unaware of the content of some of the rhetoric that colored @PolitixFireball's messages. Others say he does like to mentor young political enthusiasts. 

"Congressman Pearce has mentored and initiated many young people as they begin their service in politics, including me. He is respected because he engages all individuals and communities throughout southern New Mexico regardless of partisan affiliation or religious creed," Aaron Henry Diaz, a libertarian-leaning party activist and campaign official for US Senate candidate David Clements, wrote on Facebook this week. 

The episode is a reflection of the divisive rhetoric that often courses through New Mexico politics. The Bernalillo County Republican Party suspended Executive Director Steve Kush after he called a Working America representative a "radical bitch" in April, 2013. More than a year earlier Democratic state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton apologized for saying a Republican colleague was "carrying the Mexican's water on the fourth floor"—a reference to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez' own chief of staff Keith Gardner caught heat following the release of a secret recording of Gardner in which he directed profane insults at a number of officials. Gardner remains in his position. 

By Thursday, Stevens' messages became a political issue, when Pearce's Democratic challenger Roxanne Lara issued a fundraising email about Stevens' role in the @PolitixFireball account. "A new report suggests that Tea Party Congressman Steve Pearce just hired as his official spokesperson someone who wrote for a group with a history of blogging and tweeting racist and anti-Semitic comments," wrote campaign manager Brian Lenzmeier.

Stevens' hiring upset some Republicans, too.

"His recent hire of the xenophobic 'Politixfireball' also known as Rebekah Stevens has already potentially harmed some of those relationships," Henry Diaz added. "She has attacked me and other Republicans who do not share her shallow world view and I do question her ability to effectively represent our Congressman with the media and our diversified communities. I hope he will reconsider this hire. I don't need to hide behind anonymity to share my thoughts."

For more than a year Stevens directed attacks at reporters, politicos and elected officials from her anonymous handle. She engaged in personal quarrels with other anonymous Twitter users as well. 

"Being a nasty troll and threatening or bullying people can lead to unpleasant consequences—just don’t say those things..." Stevens wrote in one blog post that outlines her extensive journey to unmask the identity of another anonymous Twitter user, tracing the user to Oregon. "Hate me all you want, but if you put that hate into a documentable form, it may lead to bad repercussions."

Joey Peters contributed to this report. 

 

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