Updated: The neo-Nazi who allegedly killed five people was once praised as a "true patriot" by Russell Pearce
Less than a month after Russell Pearce crowed at a Gilbert, Ariz., Tea Party meeting that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “immigration policy is identical to mine” — a brash claim that Republican operatives scrambled to explain — the self-proclaimed Tea Party president and architect of Arizona’s punitive immigration law might now be scrambling himself. Pearce has previously praised J.T. Ready, the alleged gunman in Wednesday’s tragic killing of five people in the same Phoenix suburb.
In 2006, Pearce told an interviewer on a video that emerged last year that he also considered Ready to be a “true patriot, to the real purpose, the limited purpose, to the Republican platform that we have.”
According to news reports, Wednesday’s victims included Ready’s apparent girlfriend, two others adults and a child, along with Ready’s apparent suicide, and was most likely connected to a domestic dispute.
While Ready, a neo-Nazi activist, might have made more headlines for his “U.S. Border Guard” and defiantly white supremacist tirades against immigrants from Mexico, his shadowy connections to Pearce and others in Arizona’s extremist political circles remain troubling. Earlier this spring, Ready had announced his intention to run for sheriff of Pinal County, on the outskirts of Phoenix.
Ready possessed an undeniable showmanship and proclivity for attracting media attention to Arizona’s immigration crisis. He had been court-martialed twice from the military, yet still managed to invoke the veteran tag until he was stripped of his role as master of ceremonies for a Veteran’s Day parade in Mesa. That didn’t stop Ready from making a failed bid for the Mesa City Council, or gaining a spot as a precinct committeeman for the Republican Party in 2008.
Thanks to Phoenix New Times’ Stephen Lemons’ indefatigable muckraking over several years, we know how Ready involved himself with the National Socialist Movement and nativist border groups while maintaining a relationship with Pearce. In fact, Pearce had taken part in Ready’s baptism in the Mormon Church and ordained him as an elder in the Melchizedek priesthood.
Despite the mounting evidence, Pearce denied association with Ready and emailed Lemons in response to the “true patriot” video in the winter of 2011: “No one could have known or guessed he would later become involved with radical hate groups.”
However, the Anti-Defamation League in Phoenix had already warned Pearce about Ready’s Nazi activities in 2006. A year later, local media began to report on Ready’s white supremacist affiliations after a legislative hearing. At an anti-immigrant rally in Phoenix in the summer of 2007, Pearce had watched admiringly as Ready wooed the crowd.
In the end, it was Ready who felt betrayed by Pearce’s political maneuvers. “He’s supposed to be a lawman,” Ready charged in a taped interview with Phoenix videographer Dennis Gilman, after Pearce closed the door on their relationship due to all of the media attention, “but he has a pattern of criminality.”
“He is the worst kind of racist,” Ready referred to Pearce in a New Times interview in the fall of 2010. “One who will do anything to achieve power, then trample on our rights like a tyrant when he gets that power.
Ready added, “I christen him Grand Wizard of the AZ Senate!”
Ready’s connections are not just limited to Pearce. State legislator Sylvia Allen introduced a bill this spring for Arizona to fund and arm its own border militia, which was arguably modeled on Ready’s controversial militia antics that won national media-coverage.
As national debate raged over SB 1070 in the summer of 2010, Ready announced his militia initiative on his “white supremacist New Saxon site, inviting participants to “bring plenty of firearms and ammo.” Ready admonished: “Camouflage or earth tone clothing [is] preferred…Bandanas, balaclavas, or other identity concealing items are permissible and encouraged.” He declared: “This is the Minuteman Project on steroids! THE INVASION STOPS HERE!”
Two weeks ago, armed apparent militia activists in camouflage ambushed and killed two undocumented migrants in an incident that remains unsolved.
Regardless of any connection he may have had to that attack, Ready has brought another bitter chapter of death to the border state’s headlines.
Update: Russell Pearce has released a statement regarding his relationship with Ready. “I knew JT Ready, I did, as did many of us who have been involved in Mesa politics for a long time. When we first met JT he was fresh out of the Marine Corp and seemed like a decent person,” it reads, in part. “ At some point in time darkness took his life over, his heart changed, and he began to associate with the more despicable groups in society. They were intolerant and hateful and like so many who knew him from before, I was upset and disappointed at the choices he was making. I worked with others to have him removed from his local position within our Republican Party because there has never been and will never be any room in our Party or our lives for those preaching hatred.”
Jeff Biggers's next book, "State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream" (Nation Books) is due out in September. More Jeff Biggers.
More Related Stories
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11