Arkansas GOP leader resigns after Clinton comment
LITTLE ROCK — A district chairman with the Republican Party of Arkansas resigned after he was quoted saying that Hillary Clinton "would probably get shot at the state line" if she ran for president in 2016, the GOP announced Wednesday.
GOP Chairman Doyle Webb says Johnny Rhoda stepped down as 2nd District Republican chairman Wednesday. The day before, U.S. News & World Report reported that Rhoda said in an interview that he didn't believe Clinton was popular in Arkansas and that a presidential campaign wouldn't be well-received.
"Moments ago I received the resignation of Johnny Rhoda as 2nd District Republican Chairman," Webb said in a statement released by the party. "He was apologetic for the statements he made to media yesterday and although he feels he was taken out of context, he knows that his statements have created an unnecessary distraction from the important issues before the state today."
Rhoda, a longtime figure in the state Republican Party, made the comments in a report published Tuesday about Clinton's prospects in Arkansas, where she once served as first lady. Clinton remains popular among the state's Democrats; she won the 2008 primary in her unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination.
"She'd probably get shot at the state line," he said, later adding, "Nobody has any affection for her. The majority don't."
Rhoda did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon.
His comments sparked criticism from Democrats, who urged the state GOP and its candidates to condemn his remarks.
"The fact is that a GOP official used violent rhetoric in daily conversation — with a reporter no less. What does that say about the Republican candidates associated with him and the Republican Party of Arkansas as a whole?" the state Democratic Party said in a statement issued before Rhoda resigned. "Do they approve of this abhorrent language?"
Rhoda had served as Van Buren County chairman for Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin's 2010 congressional bid. Griffin, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, said in a prepared statement that Rhoda's comment was "obviously inappropriate, offensive and shows poor judgment."
In 2010, Rhoda was the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the GOP that accused Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and other constitutional officers of improperly benefiting from using state cars. The GOP dropped the lawsuit in 2011.