Racial jokes land Ariz. lawmaker in hot water

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Some controversial comments from Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh have surfaced.

The comments came to light just hours after Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062, a bill that critics called "legalized discrimination." One of the bill's big supporters was caught on tape making jokes that some say are racially offensive.

Kavanagh is heard mocking Hispanics, Muslims and Asians at a roast of Sheriff Joe Arpaio Saturday night on the final day of the Western Conservative Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center.

The audio surfaced Wednesday and was posted on the Southern Poverty Law Center's website.

"Sheriff Joe served in the Spanish-American War. Oh, Korea? See, all these years I figured he was rounding up Hispanics because he had a grudge from the Spanish-American War. So if you were in the Korean War, how come you're not rounding up Asians?" Kavanagh said during the roast.

"Going out with Sheriff Joe is always an adventure because usually when we walk into a restaurant, most of the wait staff and cooks dive out the back window and when they don't, I never know what the hell's in my food," Kavanagh said.

Officials with the Southern Poverty Law Center acknowledged that roasters sometimes push the limits of taste but say this was out of bounds even for a roast.

Toward the end of the monologue even Arpaio could be heard saying "that's enough."

When reached for comment, Kavanagh said any allegations that he was acting racially insensitive are just plain ridiculous. He went on to say that it was just good-natured ribbing and jabs at Arpaio's expense. He also said that if the people at the Southern Poverty Law Center had made these jokes at a dinner for them, they'd be rolling on the floor.

Kavanagh was not only a supporter of SB 1062, he was the main sponsor of a bill last year targeting the transgender community.