A representative of the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office said Friday morning that Alex Reed misspoke when he said he was misquoted in Tuesday’s edition of the News-Times and instead had his comments taken out of context.
The context surrounding the incendiary quote was a question, said Mark Myers, director of strategic initiatives for the secretary of state.
Reed, an aide to the secretary of state, was responding to a question from Lorraine O’Neal, who asked how illegal immigrants could end up on voter registration polls. Reed then touted the need for Republican county clerks to overlook voter registration paperwork.
Published in the News-Times: “That’s why I preach around to the county officials that it’s so important to have a Republican county clerk in every county,” he said. “Because that’s the main person there and that’s who we work with the most. Either through error, they register and have the wrong address and it’s, ‘Oh well, they’re registered voters.’”
He added, “I don’t know what to say about it, other than it’s kind of a disgrace.”
Between Editions made the digital recording to the speech available on Thursday in light of the controversy.
The implication that Democratic county clerks aren’t doing their due diligence ruffled some feathers statewide on Tuesday and the story went viral on Thursday when Arkansas Times blogger Max Brantley picked up on it.
Reed reportedly dodged Brantley’s questions and Secretary of State Mark Martin told clerks in Springdale that the reporter in question fabricated the quotes, according to Brantley.
Myers, however, had a different story and alleged Friday morning in an interview with the News-Times that Martin actually told the clerks his aide may have been misquoted and said he would research the matter.
He also noted that Reed was on his own time, didn’t receive state pay and hadn’t driven a state vehicle to the Monday night Union County Republican Committee meeting.
“I already knew he was going down there. He told me. He gave me the heads up,” Myers said. “Did not receive any state money, did not take a state car. … Our employees are free to go out and they’re free to do what they want to do on their own time. So, we don’t try and control that.”
Though Reed introduced himself to those who attended the meeting as someone honored to be working for Martin, a man who does a wonderful job “especially for Republicans,” Myers said Reed’s comments were not meant to be taken from his professional role.
“And that was his other point to me, was he certainly did not intend for his comments to be taken as he was speaking in his role as our office spokesperson.”
After Reed initially claimed to have been misquoted, Myers sat down with him to explain the difference between a misquote and being taken out of context.
“Alex and I had a bit of an education session and I tried to explain to him there’s a difference between saying it wasn’t in context and it was a misquote,” he said. “So that was on our side. And that’s what Alex intended.”
“The context that he was responding to a question — what the question was — from the audience was important. So it didn’t sound like he was just in a speech and went down this path on his own.”
Reed, who answered the phone on Friday at the secretary of state’s office, declined to comment on the matter. However, when made aware that his comments had been recorded and published on Between Editions in an interview with Arkansas News on Thursday, Reed reportedly “replied in exasperation, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful.’”
He also further elucidated on the comments he made Monday night, backpedaling to include all county clerks in those doing their jobs.
“Our office has faith that the county clerks are doing their job,” he said. “There are a lot of good county clerks out there, and a lot of them are friends of mine.”
However, an image of Reed’s Facebook page showed a more personal take on the matter to Blue Arkansas Blog.