Native American identity comments spark controversy in NM congressional race

Politics - Government

Did a New Mexico congressional candidate cross the line by challenging her opponent’s Native American heritage? 

Democrats are lashing out at Republican Janice Arnold-Jones for what she said about Democrat Deb Haaland during an interview on a Fox News program. 

While Haaland’s campaign says the comments are offensive, Arnold-Jones is defending her comments. 

During the Fox News interview, the host made a statement in the form of a question to Arnold-Jones that Haaland “would be the first Native American as a woman in Congress.” 

Arnold-Jones responded, saying, “that’s what they say.” 

When the host asked what Arnold-Jones meant by that, she replied, “Well, I’m saying there’s no doubt that her lineage is Laguna, but she is a military brat just like I am.” 

“And… so, I… you know, I think it evokes images that she was raised on a reservation. She belongs to a pueblo, and wonderful lineage, and that confuses me because here she advocating for open borders, and the people most vulnerable, our sovereign tribes and pueblos where there is little law enforcement and they would be the most vulnerable,” said Arnold-Jones. 

Deb Haaland’s campaign reacted to the comments Thursday, calling them offensive. 

“She thinks that Deb is not Native American because her family moved around, because her dad was in the military?” said Dechellie Gray, a communications assistant for the Haaland campaign. 

“I think her point was just to insult Deb, to strip her of her identity,” said Gray. 

KRQE News 13 spoke to Arnold-Jones over the phone Thursday evening about her comments. 

“I’m flabbergasted that somebody thinks that the facts are offensive,” said Arnold-Jones. 

Arnold-Jones told KRQE News 13 that the comments weren’t a knock on Haaland’s heritage, but commentary on where Haaland grew up. 

“Being a military brat is really unique type of background, and it doesn’t take anything away from your heritage, but it points out that the majority of her youth was not spent here because it couldn’t have been,” said Arnold-Jones. 

Arnold-Jones also told KRQE News 13 that her comments on the Fox News program came during a conversation about the idea of abolishing ICE, and that she was making a point about how she thinks that would harm Indian reservations. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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