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Arizona schools chief admits to controversial blog posts

    Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal in Phoenix in June 2011.

PHOENIX » Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal has confirmed he is the author behind several anonymous blog posts that referred to welfare recipients as "lazy pigs" and Planned Parenthood as the cause of abortions among African-Americans.

Huppenthal told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday that he sincerely regrets if his comments offended anyone.

"When people are as passionate as I am about developing sound public policy occasionally the emotions of the moment interfere with sound judgment and a more steady voice," Huppenthal said in a statement.

The comments date back to 2011 — the year Huppenthal took office — and were posted on political blogs. They touched on issues such as education, the economy, immigration and health care. Huppenthal wrote several posts under the monikers of Thucydides and Falcon9.

In one post, he writes: "Obama is rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV’s (typical of "poor" families)."

Huppenthal says the "pigs" comment was a reference to a nursery fable, "The Little Red Hen," and not a dig.

A September 2013 post on the Seeing Red AZ blog attributed to Thucydides says Margaret Sanger, who established Planned Parenthood, "fed 16 million African-Americans into the abortion mills." Another 2013 post written by Falcon 9 on Blog for Arizona says President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic policies "directly led to the rise of a no-name hack named Adolph Hitler…"

Blog for Arizona, a Democratic-leaning blog, has suggested for the past several months that the writer was Huppenthal.

Blog for Arizona said the postings were traced to an IP address tied to the state Department of Education, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

Huppenthal said he has been putting his comments online for many years but "might have posted a few times from work during lunch hours or breaks," the Times reported.

The state’s schools chief says he wrote the posts under different pseudonyms so he could have a more open dialogue without his position influencing the debate.

"I recognized my position as an elected official would influence the dialogue, and I was interested in an exchange on issues and ideas," Huppenthal said.

Some political observers say Huppenthal’s use of pseudonyms brings up an ethical issue.

"Public officials should not post anonymously," said Todd Gitlin, an ethics specialist and chairman of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. "They’re elected to be accountable. They can’t be held accountable if they hide behind pseudonyms."

Arizona Education Association president Andrew Morrill said he is bewildered by what he calls Huppenthal’s "bizarre" behavior. Morrill added he is troubled by the contents of what Huppenthal posted, as well as the allegation that he used state-owned computers to share his views.

"We know if a teacher were to use school district equipment in this way … that teacher would be fired," Morrill told The Associated Press. "That teacher would be facing strong disciplinary action. What’s the counter to that here?"

Others, however, don’t think the anonymous commentary is problematic.

"American history is littered with people writing anonymous pamphlets," said Doug Cole, a Phoenix area political consultant.

Huppenthal said he doesn’t think the controversy will hurt his chances of re-election in November. A spokesman for his campaign did not immediately return a message from the AP seeking comment Thursday.

Morrill said Huppenthal is sending voters a "message of no confidence" through his actions.

"Whether or not they will pick up on that, we will have to see," he said.

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