At around 1:00 am on Tuesday morning, the 2019 Arizona legislature finally adjourned sine die, bringing to an end a contentious legislative session that stretched through most of May and included rare sessions on Memorial Day weekend. And the session ended much as it began, with controversy over the sexual abuse of children. And it ended with Eddie Farnsworth once again showing us who he truly is.
On Memorial Day, Farnsworth’s effort to thwart reform of the statute of limitations for civil suits by victims of childhood sexual abuse went down in defeat, but not before he whined, made offensive historical comparisons, and turned himself into the victim, joining the ranks of former legislator David Stringer, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and of course the president in the long line of powerful men who respond to challenges to their power by throwing a histrionic pity party for themselves.
A Session Marred by Disregard for Victims
The specter of childhood sexual abuse, and disregard for victims by those in power in the Republican-controlled legislature, marred pretty much the entire 2019 legislative session. On January 25, eleven days after the start of the session, Phoenix New Times published its first story reporting that Prescott legislator and noted racist David Stringer had been arrested in Baltimore in 1983 on what were described as child pornography charges, but later had the conviction expunged. Democrats called for an immediate vote for Stringer’s dismissal, based both on the charges and his history of racist comments, but were rebuffed by the House leadership, which insisted on an investigation by the Ethics committee.
The call for caution was abandoned two months later when additional reporting by the New Times and the Ethics investigation revealed that Stringer had been charged with repeatedly soliciting sex from two minors, one of whom had a mental disability. No longer protected by the Republican leadership, Stringer was forced to resign but was unrepentant, taking to Facebook to whine about his mistreatment.
Under these circumstances, it seemed like a good time for the legislature to take up the bill introduced by Republican Paul Boyer which would change Arizona’s statute of limitations for civil suits by victims of childhood sexual abuse, which are among the most unfriendly to victims in the country. But this bill was denied a hearing in the Judiciary Committee by chair Eddie Farnsworth, for reasons we’ve discussed at length here before.
Boyer was then forced to take drastic action and, in concert with fellow Republican Heather Carter, took advantage of the GOP’s slim 17-13 majority in the legislature (and unwillingness to work with Democrats) by withholding votes on the budget until the bill was heard. This is largely what led to the extraordinary Memorial Day weekend sessions, and also to Carter and Boyer facing threats of retaliation from fellow Republicans.
Eddie the Victim
Which brings us back to Monday. Boyer and Carter finally reached an agreement on a compromise bill with the leadership which was put up for a vote. The bill would pass both chambers unanimously, but not before Eddie Farnsworth got a chance to whine and make himself into the victim.
Speaking before the vote, Farnsworth, according to AZCentral, said even “vile” criminals need to be defended against “essentially lynching people.”
OK, let’s stop right there for a moment. I really shouldn’t need to explain this, but opening people up to the threat of a civil lawsuit is not “essentially lynching” them. Not even close. Lynching, and again I can’t believe I need to say this, is the act of killing someone without a trial or conviction, as was primarily used against Black people in the Jim Crow South. It is an act of terrorism. Allowing someone to stand trial in a civil courtroom, where the worst penalty imposed is monetary damages, is exactly the opposite of lynching in every respect. I would recommend Eddie take a visit to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama to learn more about this. This comparison is beyond offensive, especially in a climate where hate crimes are on the rise, abetted by the rhetoric of Farnsworth’s political party. (Again, see Stringer, David).
But wait, it somehow gets worse. Eddie continued to smirkingly say of the standoff over this bill that, “this is probably a trauma that I will live with for the rest of my life, and it is unfortunate,” to well-deserved groans and hisses from the gallery.
Farnsworth, who has a nephew in prison for kidnapping and raping a 12-year-old girl, was both mocking all sexual assault survivors and turning himself into the victim. In this regard, he joined the ranks of not only Stringer, but also Brett Kavanaugh, whose angry, teary Congressional testimony made the case that a powerful man being accused of sexual assault is worse than the assault itself, which was essentially Farnsworth’s argument in blocking the bill. And of course, Republicans’ dear leader has made a career out of playing the victim when called to account for his various crimes, including sexual assault.
With his comments, Farnsworth was sending a message to all victims of childhood sexual abuse that the feelings and reputation of powerful men like himself will always be more important than theirs. It was a disgusting display, but one we have unfortunately become accustomed to over the past few years.
Last year, after Kavanaugh’s disgraceful testimony and subsequent confirmation to the Supreme Court (abetted, lest we forget, by our own sad-faced Jeff Flake), the teenage feminist punk band The Regrettes released a song about Kavanaugh, and all the men like him, called “Poor Boy.” The DIY music video features a drawing of a man shedding tears while 18-year-old lead singer Lydia Night sneers the lyrics, “Poor boy, what you gonna do? These girls are coming for you.”
I hope all the abuse survivors, both young and old, who heard Farnsworth’s words yesterday treat them with the same amount of contempt.