Nevada Assembly speaker-designate Ira Hansen would be one of the most controversial speakers in Nevada history.
In a surprise, he was named on Nov. 7 by the new Republican majority as their candidate for speaker. If elected in February, he would be the first Washoe speaker since Robert Barengo in 1981 and the first from Sparks since Chet Christiansen in 1961. The GOP members passed over Assembly Republican leader Pat Hickey of Reno to choose Hansen. It was treated as a victory for the more radical wing of the party, which took over the Clark County and state party organizations in 2012, cutting presidential candidate Mitt Romney loose from state GOP support.
While members of the GOP caucus talked about a united front, they selected as speaker a legislator who is one of the most contentious public officials in the state. Hansen doesn’t like blacks, gays, Israel, many Republicans, and most Nevadans—he once wrote that newcomers to the state, who constitute four of every five Nevadans, should accept Nevada as it is or leave.
Hansen has opposed Republican presidential nominees Robert Dole and Mitt Romney (“way too liberal”), and other Republicans at lower levels.
While he is very conservative, his views sometimes overlap with others with whom he normally has little in common. He agrees with civil libertarians about the threat to expression from hate crime laws. He agrees with liberals about corporate welfare and threats from redevelopment power.
No Nevada official has ever given the public a more detailed blueprint to his thinking than Hansen. For many years, starting on May 11, 1994, he wrote a column for the Sparks Tribune. The Tribune did not go online until relatively recently, so access to and knowledge of most of the Hansen columns has not been easy. We reviewed every column on microfilm for this piece, covering a period of 13 years, plus a few that did make it onto the Trib website. In these columns, his viewpoint evolved very little. In fact, some columns ran unchanged time and again as the years passed.
His strong views found other forums, too, including radio talk. A Reno News & Review article about his removal as a talk show host at KKOH after he advocated better treatment for Palestinians (“How Ira Hansen got the boot,” Oct. 4, 2001) drew attention quickly after his nomination as speaker and reportedly freaked out Las Vegas billionaire and GOP sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson, an Israel supporter.
In one instance, shortly before the execution of Timothy McVeigh, Hansen argued that the Clinton administration was responsible for the Oklahoma City explosion, with McVeigh either innocent or a dupe: “Claiming the building was a public hazard the government began tearing it down long before any reasonable and complete investigation could occur. … Distrust of the federal government was at an all time high prior to the bombing. Afterward, public sympathy shifted the other way, masterfully manipulated by the Clinton Administration.”
Those are just the tip of the iceberg.
“Women, historically, have been the nurturers and mothers while men have been the providers and defenders,” Hansen wrote approvingly in 1997.
“So what happened between 1960 and 2001?” he wrote four years later. “Major social changes that negatively affected the family. Childbearing was reduced to an average of two kids. … Divorce rates skyrocketed. ‘Child care’ became an industry. Child abuse skyrocketed. Thanks to the ‘sexual revolution’ and the ‘women’s liberation movement,’ women chose to act as foolishly as men, and illegitimacy also went through the roof. … Abortions get about one out of every four children conceived.”
On a battle over a Supreme Court nomination, Hansen wrote, “As usual, it boils down to the issue of murdering unborn children, given the clinically sterile title of ‘abortion’.”
Also in 1997: “Today, when Army men look at women in the ranks with ‘longing in their eyes’ it very well may constitute ‘sexual harassment.’ The truth is, women do not belong in the Army or Navy or Marine Corps, except in certain limited fields.”
Hansen has said he keeps a Confederate battle flag on the wall where he writes his columns. “I fly it proudly in honor and in memory of a great cause and my brave ancestors who fought for that cause,” he wrote.
Hansen tends to use the term “Negro” and often does not capitalize it. In one column, he described Washoe Republican Sen. Maurice Washington (whom he supported) as black but in the same column called President Obama (whom he opposes) a “negro”—lower case.
Hansen has repeated, legitimately, the well known stories about Martin Luther King’s plagiarism as a student, using them to try to discredit his later work. On several occasions, including in King Day columns, Hansen has also cited as factual rumors about King’s private life about which nothing reliable is known, particularly given the efforts of the FBI to plant misinformation about King with journalists. Hansen provided nothing like chapter and verse to prove King’s private life unsuitable, relying on the notion that it is something we all “know.”
Hansen wrote, “King’s private life was trashy at best. … King Jr. is as low as it gets, a hypocrite, a liar, a phony, and a fraud.” He opposed an effort to name a Paradise Park community center for King on the grounds African-Americans had begun rejecting him in favor of Louis Farrakhan, a black trend that has not been recorded elsewhere. (Hansen offered local African-American businessperson Luther Mack as an alternative name for the center.)
Hansen has written, “According to a recent Harvard study, Nevada ranks near the bottom in graduating blacks and Hispanics, and the usual crowd of soothsayers blame it on the old tired argument of ‘racism’.” We were unable to find any record of a single community spokesperson in the time frame of the 2004 Harvard study who blamed the findings on racism, nor did Hansen quote any.
In an attack on public education and teacher unions, Hansen wrote, “The Democratic coalition would split asunder if the NAACP & co. actually promoted what black Americans truly desire—educational choice. The shrewd and calculating [black] ‘leaders’ are willing to sacrifice the children of their own race to gratify their lust for power and position. The relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies. For American blacks, being denied choice and forced to attend the failing and inferior government school system is a form of involuntary servitude. Let’s call it what it truly is—educational slavery.”
He wrote that African-Americans are insufficiently grateful for being given their freedom: “The lack of gratitude and the deliberate ignoring of white history in relation to eliminating slavery is a disgrace that Negro leaders should own up to.”
Latinos did not escape his attention: “Locally, gangs and their associated criminal activity are obviously dominated by immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants. You cannot read a story about criminals or watch a news report locally without noticing a grossly disproportionate amount of Hispanic involvement.”
“At Spanish Springs High School, the large Hispanic population has tended to congregate amongst themselves and boldly flaunt their Mexican heritage by having the green, red and white flag of Mexico displayed in various ways,” he once wrote.
In 1996 Hansen blamed Sparks High School tuberculosis cases on immigrants but cited no evidence of such linkage. “Sparks High is now an ‘At Risk’ school, a polite way of saying it has a very high minority population,” he wrote. Actually, the at-risk term refers to a school with a high probability of dropouts and academic failures.
Columnist Andrew Barbano, who shared the Trib Sunday editorial page with Hansen for many years, wrote this week, “Alas and alack, I believe Ira is an overt bigot, racist and homophobe. … The Barbwire never forgets, and I’ve got the evidence in Ira’s own words, which I will be publishing as the legislative session approaches. Can achieving high office and political power change the leopard’s spots? I hope so …”
Barbano has posted Hansen writings at Ballotboxing.us/ira.html.
Nevada’s tourism industry is launching an expanded effort to appeal to gays after the state’s ban on marriage equality fell in the courts. “It’s a great day for Las Vegas,” that city’s diversity marketing manager, Jim McMichael, told New York Magazine. TV spots for Nevada weddings are running in markets like New York and San Francisco. Even publicly operated facilities are tapping into the wedding business. An ad for weddings at Reno’s Rancho San Rafael Park ran in these pages in October.
A few weeks ago, a UCLA study found that Nevada could attract up to $52 million in tourist spending in three years as a result of marriage equality. In earlier years, negative publicity about Nevada and gays—such as the state’s approval of a ban on marriage equality—reduced gay tourism in the state. This was noticeably true in 1981 when one visible state official, Lt. Gov. Myron Leavitt, attacked the Reno Gay Rodeo—which lured 8,000 tourists to the city—and said the attendees were “queers” who should “go somewhere like California.” They did, when the event left the city.
In the spring the Nevada Legislature, where Hansen will preside as speaker, will take a second-round vote on repealing the ban from the constitution. In April, Hansen objected to the Nevada Republican Party’s action removing opposition to marriage equality from its platform.
Hansen seems to define men who abuse boys as homosexual, though the scholarship says that most abuse is committed by heterosexuals. He also seems to consider gays to be deviant by definition.
“Considering only about 2 percent of adult males are homosexuals, the numbers show why homosexuals have been historically regarded as such a threat. Male homosexuals are grossly disproportionate in child molestation cases, and the youth orientation of male homosexuality drives this trend.”
“Yet, one fact of homosexuality deliberately downplayed is the grossly disproportionate numbers of child molesters, called ‘pederasts,’ which fill their ranks. In fact, they are called, in the homosexual vernacular, ‘chicken hawks.’ Many of these pederasts are not the least bit ashamed of their vile behavior and have adopted the militancy now so common with their fellow homosexuals.”
Pederasty refers to sexual relationships between men and boys or male adolescents.
There is little factual support for these claims. Hansen gave no evidence for the claim that pederasts “fill” the ranks of gays. He cited a single case in Reno.
His preoccupation with the notion turned into a sort of hobby. “Yet another child molester has been discovered locally, accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy,” he once wrote. “I’ve been keeping a rough tally on homosexual/heterosexual molesters as reported locally, and roughly half of all molestations involve homosexual men preying on boys.” Hansen gave no details, nor did he publish his list, nor did he explain how he knew the sexuality of the alleged molesters.
He has also linked the gay community with a tiny national organization, the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which was repudiated by virtually all gay organizations a quarter century or more ago.
Hansen has repeatedly blamed the Catholic priest sexual molestation scandal on gays, a claim for which there was no evidence at the time and against which there is considerable evidence now. He has also been critical of the church itself for its handling of the problem.
The church knows there are heterosexual and homosexual impulses in its priests. What it prohibits is putting those feelings into action. A 2010 report commissioned by U.S. Catholic bishops from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found an upsurge in gays becoming priests during the 1980s and a decrease in abuse associated with this cohort. Other scholarly studies have similarly suggested that straights are less able to control their impulses toward the young than gays.
Moreover, considerable research suggests that pedophilia is a separate sexual identity from heterosexuality and homosexuality.
In 2000, Hansen wrote, “Yet another pet theory of the left has fallen by the wayside. In case you have not heard, the complete human gene code has now been mapped, and scientists have dealt a fatal blow to the ‘gay gene’ theory.”
He offered no source for the claim, did not explain why he thought mapping of the human genome and the existence of a gay gene were linked, nor did he explain why genetic factors need necessarily be solely responsible for sexual preference, but LaTrobe University genetics professor Jenny Graves wrote earlier this year, “The claim that homosexual men share a ‘gay gene’ created a furor in the 1990s. But new research two decades on supports this claim—and adds another candidate gene. To an evolutionary geneticist, the idea that a person’s genetic makeup affects their mating preference is unsurprising. We see it in the animal world all the time. There are probably many genes that affect human sexual orientation.”
Apparently never expecting public sentiment on gays to change, Hansen defined gay candidates by their sexuality, using the term “homosexual” as a weapon. He labeled some candidates he opposed according to what he believed was their sexuality—“homosexual activist Kendall Stagg.” In his writings, no other candidates than those he opposed were identified by their sexuality.