Criticism of Arizona's superintendent of public instruction has intensified in the past few days, after he confessed last week to having made a series of controversial blog comments using pseudonyms.
Some have even asked for John Huppenthal's resignation.
In one post, he wrote, "Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat screen TVs (typical of 'poor' families)."
Under the name Thucydides, Huppenthal also compared Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, to Adolf Hitler, saying she was responsible for feeding "16 million African Americans into abortion mills."
Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, said the education community held its breath when Huppenthal was elected in 2010 because of his prior voting record and his strong support for voucher programs. But Morrill noted that a good working relationship was established for the majority of Huppenthal’s first term – at least until now.
"This is just bizarre behavior," Morrill said. "The posts being ethically offensive and historically inaccurate. And a really questionable use of the energy and time of the person elected to lead the public school system.”
Lisa Graham Keegan, a Republican who served as the state superintendent from 1995 until 2001, said she didn't believe the news at first.
"And my second reaction was to call John, who’s been a colleague for 20 years, and say ‘John you need to leave,'" she said. "You lose the moral authority of this position when you say these things. They can’t be unsaid. And you’ve now spoken to the state this way. They know this is you. And you lose the trust of the people that you’re meant to serve.”
When contacted by Arizona Public Media, Huppenthal’s office said he isn’t providing interviews on his blogging. But in a statement, Huppenthal wrote, “Why did I blog anonymously? I believe in rigorous public discourse, in furthering ideas and reforming ideologies that don't always work. I have engaged both sides of the ideological spectrum to think deeper about their positions. I recognized my position as an elected official would influence the dialog, and I was interested strictly in an exchange on issues and ideas.”
But Keegan said Huppenthal’s office comes with responsibilities.
“The position does not belong to the person who holds it. It belongs to the public. It belongs to the students who we serve. And once you disclose yourself as someone who basically is holding disdain for the people we’re serving, you can’t have that position anymore," she said.
The Arizona Republican Party hasn’t denounced Huppenthal as a result of his online musings, said state party spokesperson Tim Sifert, and is not pressuring him to drop out of the race.
“We’re in the midst of the Republican Party primary season," Sifert said. "So it really is up to the voters – the Republican voters in our primary – to look at the candidates and make their decisions and make their decisions based on those candidates. So that authority really lies with the voters.”
Huppenthal has one opponent in the primary, Diane Douglas of Sun City.
Writers on the left-leaning Blog for Arizona speculated for several months that Huppenthal was behind the posts. They said they traced his writings to a dedicated Arizona Department of Education IP address.
Huppenthal claimed he made the posts on his personal computer during off hours.