WASHINGTON – Pat Rogers, a Republican National Committee (RNC) leader, is facing calls for his dismissal after telling the staff of Gov. Susana Martinez, R-N.M., that because she agreed to meet with American Indians, she disrespected the memory of Col. George Armstrong Custer.
Custer is infamous for being a U.S. Army commander in the mid-1800s who killed many American Indians during what are historically known as the Indian Wars. He was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
Rogers is a GOP lobbyist and partner with the Modrall law firm of Albuquerque, New Mexico. A recent member of the RNC Executive Committee, he is also an RNC National Committeeman for his state. He is currently in Tampa, Florida preparing for the upcoming Republican National Convention.
Rogers was appointed to the GOP executive committee by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who faced his own Indian-themed controversy after using the phrase “honest injun” in 2010.
Rogers made the Custer-friendly statement in an e-mail obtained by Independent Source PAC and publicized by ProgressNow New Mexico, a liberal advocacy organization that is urging his exit from the RNC. Organizers with the group say his writing was a “tactless and bigoted statement.”
“The state is going to hell,” Rogers wrote in part of the e-mail. “Col. [Allen] Weh would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.” Weh was a Republican candidate for governor of New Mexico in 2010 who ran against Martinez.
The e-mail was sent following a meeting in June between Martinez and the state’s tribes, according to ProgressNow. It was directed to senior members of the governor’s administration. The governor’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
“George Armstrong Custer may be regarded as a kind of military hero by Pat Rogers, but to the Native peoples of America Custer represents the bellicose imperialism that was responsible for the systematic slaughter of American Indians throughout this continent,” according to an e-mail being circulated by ProgressNow.
“Such a blatantly racist statement against our Native people is offensive from anyone, but to come from a national GOP leader and lobbyist for some of our country’s largest corporations is indefensible,” said Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, in a statement.
“These e-mails show the contempt and disrespect New Mexico’s Republican leadership has for our Native people. Unless they drop Pat Rogers immediately, we can rightly assume that those organizations he speaks for, including the RNC, Modrall Sperling and his lobbying clients, feel the same way.”
“Well, there’s an entirely different angle to this,” added Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer and chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. “I think you could argue that when Gov. Martinez met with Pat Rogers, she disrespected the memory of intelligent people everywhere.”
ProgressNow New Mexico has posted an online tool that allows people to e-mail RNC leaders and the corporate CEOs of Rogers’ law firm and lobbying clients to call for his firing.
Rogers was forced to resign in July from the board of a state group, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, after his role in a separate e-mail scandal was investigated. He had been criticized for using personal e-mail accounts to contact state government officials attempting to influence their decision-making–a practice that carries questions under state law.
The RNC and Rogers have not responded to requests for comment, although they have previously taken umbrage with ProgressNow New Mexico for its activism.