A growing number of Nebraska elected officials — both Republicans and Democrats — are discovering at least one area of bipartisan agreement: Pat McPherson should probably just quit.
The embattled member of the Nebraska State Board of Education has resisted calls to resign over posts on his blog that described President Barack Obama as a “half breed.”
McPherson has said that he does not intend to resign and that someone else wrote the offending posts. He has declined to reveal the writer’s identity.
The entire Omaha Public Schools board approved a resolution Wednesday calling on him to resign, and the Omaha City Council is scheduled to vote on its own resolution next week.
Fellow Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts called last week for McPherson to step down. And McPherson finds little support among the state’s mostly GOP congressional delegation.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., was clear Thursday when asked about her feelings on the situation.
“The comments on Mr. McPherson’s blog were entirely repugnant and have no place in our society,” Fischer said in a statement to The World-Herald. “Elected officials are held to a higher standard. Mr. McPherson has lost the public’s trust. He should therefore resign.”
In response to questions from The World-Herald, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., noted that he doesn’t really know McPherson and wasn’t anxious to pile on. But he added that McPherson really should step aside.
“It appears to me that his capacity to serve well publicly is gravely diminished,” Fortenberry said. “It was a serious wrong.”
Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., said it’s not his role to call on McPherson to resign, but he, too, indicated it’s time for McPherson to go.
“It’s going to be very difficult for him to continue, in my view,” Ashford said. “It’s best if he resigns, but I’m not going to get into the calling business.”
Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., demurred on the question of McPherson’s future.
“While Congressman Smith deplores the language and tone used on the blog post, he does not know all of the details in this case and is not going to rush to judgment,” Smith spokesman Rick VanMeter said in a statement.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said last week that the public must know the board is piloted by people focused on equal opportunity for all.
“Right now, it’s hard for me to see how that board can operate effectively,” Sasse said.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican, criticized McPherson in a written statement, saying that “people need to take responsibility for their actions.”
In 2013, McPherson was one of Stothert’s 11 nominees to a board that recommended changes to the city’s charter.
Stothert did not call on McPherson to resign, saying that matter should be between him and his constituents.
But she said she believes it could make the work of the State Board of Education more difficult.
“I condemn racism, discrimination or disparaging remarks of any kind, about anyone,” she said. “Many elected officials, including myself, have been the target of discrimination. In my case, it was due to my gender.”
The Omaha City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution Tuesday that calls on McPherson to resign.
The resolution says a Board of Education member “must be able to carry out his or her duties, without bias, in the best interests of all Nebraska students.”
Council Vice President Ben Gray, who represents much of north Omaha, said he sponsored the resolution because he has heard from an overwhelming number of constituents about McPherson’s blog.
“It’s imperative to me to join with the rest and say it’s time for an individual like this to go,” Gray said. “He should resign. He should do the right thing.”
Gray said McPherson’s refusal to resign “is kind of a slap in the face to people who have concerns.”
McPherson did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. He has previously disavowed the “half breed” description of Obama that appeared on his blog, the Objective Conservative, in five postings dating back to 2011.
He has said resigning would be “a tacit admission of the false accusations being made that I am a racist.”
After four Omaha Public Schools board members released a statement Monday denouncing McPherson’s blog posts, the entire school board approved a resolution Wednesday calling on him to resign.
“We recognize that the exercise of the right of free speech, particularly by public officials, sometimes has consequences,” the school board’s resolution read. “We believe this to be one of those times.”
OPS is one of the more diverse school districts in the state — 70 percent of students are nonwhite and more than 100 languages are spoken.
OPS has been a so-called “majority-minority” district since 2002.
“His presence on the State Board of Education has become a distraction at a time when we should be focusing on improving the quality of education in Nebraska,” the school board’s statement continued.
World-Herald staff writer Erin Duffy contributed to this report.