Back in 2010 as she defended her state’s harsh immigration law, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) told a newspaper reporter that she was deeply hurt by the terrible names people were calling her. The worst, she said, were the comparisons to the Nazis.
“They are awful,” she said. “Knowing that my father died fighting the Nazi regime in Germany, that I lost him when I was 11 because of that…and then to have them call me Hitler’s daughter. It hurts. It’s ugliness beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.”
The problem, as many discovered after the quote went viral, was that it wasn’t true. Brewer’s father had in fact died of lung disease in California in 1955, a decade after WWII ended.
As Brewer now faces the fact that another one of her stories is coming under question, this one involving an encounter she had with President Obama, a pattern appears to be emerging in her career: The popular conservative bomb thrower often has trouble with the truth.
The governor made the rounds on the cable news networks last week, talking about her run-in with the president on an airport tarmac near Phoenix.
Brewer called it a “tense” encounter in which Obama criticized her book and then walked away from her while she was in mid-sentence. But two other officials who witnessed the encounter said Obama was nothing but calm and described the event as little more than an “awkward moment.”
Still, the governor has used her version of the encounter to get plenty of air time, seeing an increase in sales of her book which she has called a “truth telling” tome. Amazon ranked “Scorpions for Breakfast” at No. 7 on its best sellers list on Friday. The day of the event, the book had been at No. 343,222.
On Friday, her spokesman told TPM the governor is standing by her version of events. But that spokesman, Matthew Benson, also acknowledged the governor has stumbled on certain facts in the past.
“She’s also been in political life for nearly three decades,” Benson said. “Has she ever said things that she wished she’d said more precisely? Of course.”
“I imagine President Obama would say the same thing,” he added.
In the past, when Brewer has been confronted about inaccurate statements, her first move has been to maintain she was right no matter how clear the matter was.
“There is no way I have ever misled anybody,” she said. “You’re trying to make a liar out of me.”
Later that same year, the governor went on Fox News to decry the effect illegal immigration was having on her state. Among the problems, she said, were that people were getting their heads cut off.
“We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings,” she told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren.
When quizzed about the fact that no beheadings had been reported in Arizona at that point, Brewer doubled down on the statement.
“Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert, either buried or just lying out there, that have been beheaded,” she said.
Neither she nor her office could point to an example of when anything like that had taken place. However, she continued to maintain for the next four months that she had not misspoken. Then in November of 2010, just days before her election, she relented.
“That was an error,” she said, then added: “if I said that.”
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com