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What a shame for champions of statesmanship in our politics: A longtime political operative obviously conflicted on matters of race and religion in America is headed to the Colorado legislature. We shake our heads missed opportunity to find a good conservative more in line with Colorado views than newly appointed Rep. Judy Reyher.

Reyher, the former chair of the Otero County Republican Party, tried this week to defend appalling comments she made in the past on social media. But in doing so, she doubled down with fresh comments about blacks, Muslims and former President Barack Obama — who she wrongly suggested isn’t American-born — that are clearly out of step and inappropriate.

In an interview with The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul, Reyher said that “the black community and the Democrats are the most racist group of people that exist,” adding that blacks “hate white people with a passion.”

State Rep. Judy Reyher, R-Swink, recently apologized for Facebook posts that were critical of African-Americans and Muslims and which drew concerns from top state party officials.
Photo courtesy of Judy Reyher
State Rep. Judy Reyher, R-Swink.

The new representative’s past remarks were fair game for coverage, newsworthy given the fact she’s just been appointed to replace outgoing Rep. Clarice Navarro, of Pueblo, who is taking a job with the Trump administration to direct the Colorado Farm Service Agency within the Department of Agriculture.

What a debacle for the Republican Party. In Navarro, they had a prominent Latina able to bridge traditional divides. With her help, Donald Trump easily carried Pueblo County in 2016, despite a long history of supporting Democrats for president.

Reyher’s comments were in response to understandable questions about a long list of social media posts highlighted by liberal writer Jason Salzman last year that suggest an overwhelming tone deafness when it comes to the matters of race and religion.

Consider what she wrote about Muslims. In a past Facebook post, Reyher claimed they “hate pork, beer, bikinis, Jesus and freedom of speech.” In her Post interview, she asks: “If they hate everything we stand for, what the hell they doing here other than to destroy us as a country?”

Republican leadership rightly denounced Reyher’s comments. Jeff Hays, the state party chairman, called Reyher and said he “expressed his displeasure and disagreement in no uncertain terms.” House Minority Leader Cole Wist noted that “racism and bigotry are absolutely wrong.”

On Thursday, Reyher offered a terse apology for her Facebook comments, condemned The Post for reporting what she said, and asserted that she was “not a racist” and that she embraces “all Americans.”

But on Friday she shot out a harsh statement vowing to fight what she characterized as smears and lies made against her.

“I am here to inform all the hate-filled left-wingers that I am not backing down,” she said. Despite condemnation from her own party, she says she’s being unfairly criticized by the left for trying to expose progressive efforts to create “a vicious political atmosphere filled with division and strife.”

There’s a lesson here. In trying to lance what she views as a political boil, Reyher adds to the poison. Perhaps her claims that she merely seeks to expose overuse of identity politics, or the victim card, would have a better chance of breaking through if she weren’t casting her comments in such hyper-charged language, while also playing the victim.

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