Right Wing Blogger In Trouble for Insulting Native American Prayer at Tucson Memorial

After the Tucson memorial service, many right wing bloggers attacked President Obama’s speech on civility in politics and falsely claimed that organizers encouraged the applause throughout the President’s address. One Power Line blogger, Paul Mirengoff, had another target: Dr. Carlos Gonzales, a Native American professor at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine who gave a Pascua Yaqui prayer at the service. Mirengoff believed that, despite a number of readings from the Bible from other speakers, Dr. Gonzales’s prayer wasn’t “Christian” or “American” enough, and did a disservice to the memorial:

As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to “the creator” but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

But it wasn’t just Gonzales’s prayer that was “ugly” under the circumstances. Before he ever got to the prayer, Gonzales provided us with a mini-auto biography and made several references to Mexico, the country from which (he informed us) his family came to Arizona in the mid 19th century. I’m not sure why Gonzales felt that Mexico needed to intrude into this service, but I have an idea.

In any event, the invocation could have used more God, less Mexico, and less Carlos Gonzales.

It turns out though that Mirengoff is a partner at a law firm, Akin Gump, which has an active practice in Native American communities, who may not take kindly to Mirengoff’s dismissive and denigrating post about Gonzales’s prayer. The Careerist reports on the reaction to Mirengoff’s post:

Most firms wouldn’t give a hoot about the personal rants of their lawyers except for one sticky fact: Akin Gump happens to have a thriving Native American tribes practice. Oops.

But to give the firm credit, it acted quickly. Three apologies were fired off almost immediately–though it’s unclear in what order they were sent. James Meggesto, a partner in the Native American practice at the firm, posted the following on Akin Gump’s Web site:
“As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff. . . . As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation. Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, powerlineblog.com. Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. . . . “

Mirengoff also fell on his sword, and issued the following apology (which is both on his blog and the firm Web site):

“In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales, who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post.”