RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Two U.S. House hopefuls in a crucial southern New Mexico race are distancing themselves from a Cowboys for Trump leader who said some Black athletes should “go back to Africa” as he faces mounting pressure to step down from his county commissioner’s seat.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small said in a statement late Saturday that recent remarks by Couy Griffin were “another example of dangerous rhetoric” coming from someone who also is an Otero County commissioner.
“This type of divisiveness strikes at the heart of our New Mexican values. His comments should be condemned by all, and I call on Yvette Herrell to join me in denouncing them,” Torres Small said.
The campaign of Republican former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell sought to distance itself from Griffin’s remarks after Torres Small’s statement. “Yvette also disagrees with Commissioner Griffin’s comments,” Herrell’s campaign manager Michael Horanburg said.
Griffin was a strong supporter of Herrell during her recent GOP primary. He also took a photo with Torres Small after he delivered a glass of sand that had brushed off then-White Sands National Monument for Christmas. The monument is now a national park.
Last week, Griffin faced criticism after he posted a Facebook live video where he said some Black NFL players should “go back to Africa” if they wanted to stand for “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — traditionally known as the Black national anthem — as a gesture of solidarity against racial injustice.
“They want to destroy our country. They want to talk about playing a Black national anthem before football games? I got a better idea, why don’t you go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa and you can play on a(n) old beat-out dirt lot and you can play your Black national anthem there. How about that?” Griffin said in the video. “This is America, we play the National Anthem in America today.”
Griffin also offered to give people of color what he called a “101” lesson on racial identity and said anyone who does not identify as “American” first or opposes the Second Amendment right to bear arms should leave the U.S. or “go home.” Statements like “go back to where you came from” is a racist insult aimed for decades at immigrants and African Americans in the United States.
Griffin told The Associated Press he used a poor choice of words in the video but said he was not a racist. He told The AP that after news of the video spread the reelection campaign of President Donald Trump told him it would be distancing itself from Cowboys for Trump.
Meanwhile, some residents in Otero County have begun a recall petition against Griffin to remove him from his county commissioner’s seat. Critics say Griffin has embarrassed the county and often travels out-of-state with no benefit to area residents.
Griffin posted another Facebook live video Monday and questioned the motives behind the recall. “What’s the reason for the recall? Because you don’t like the live video feeds? Because you don’t like Trump?” Griffin said. “I’m sorry for all of the above if that offends you but it’s just who I am.”
The Republican Party of New Mexico has declined to comment on Griffin.
Griffin said he would step down if recalled.