PHOENIX - A Northern Arizona state legislator under fire for making racially insensitive comments defended himself Wednesday at a Phoenix soul food restaurant.
Republican State Rep. David Stringer's apology was evasive and he needed four tries to answer a yes-or-no question: Is he a white nationalist?
Stringer has faced calls to resign from Gov. Doug Ducey and other top Republicans, since making the controversial comments almost three weeks ago.
Stringer made national headlines after sharing a video on his Facebook page from a June 11 meeting of the Yavapai County Republican Men's Forum.
Stringer said immigration was an "existential threat" to the United States. He noted that "60 percent of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities. That complicates racial integration because there aren't enough white kids to go around."
The video was retweeted and the story went viral.
Stringer, a 70-year-old freshman Republican representing Prescott, declined to apologize for his comments.
"I am going to apologize for making statement that allowed someone else to excerpt them, misrepresent them to the community," Stringer said.
Activist Jarrett Maupin was at Stringer's side for the 90-minute news conference at Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles in south Phoenix -- 90 miles from Stringer's Prescott district.
"This is not the forgiveness hour," Maupin said.
Maupin had issued a news alert earlier in the day declaring that Stringer would apologize at a "black and Latino leadership luncheon."
There was no luncheon and no black or Latino leaders, other than a handful of citizens close to Maupin.
Stringer has a habit of flirting with racist and white nationalist language in his private and public speech.
At a screening last March of the PBS documentary "American Creed," about the ideals that Americans share, Stringer used a phrase - "blood and soil" - commonly heard in white nationalist circles, as he raised questions about whether a diverse nation can survive.
"Is a shared creed really enough to hold our people together?" he said during a panel discussion.
"Is there any precedent for this in the history of nations? I can't think of a single nation that's lasted that wasn't based on shared religion, shared ancestry, shared culture. Sort of the blood and soil concept."
"Blood and soil" was a Nazi slogan chanted by white nationalists at the violent Charlottesville, Va., protests last year.
Stringer was vague when I asked him what he meant by "blood and soil."
I asked him four times to respond directly to the question, Is he a white nationalist?
"I am emphatically not a white nationalist," he said on the fourth try. "There's nothing in my career that would suggest that."
Stringer said he wanted to discuss criminal justice reform and the legislative committee he chaired that was disbanded after his "not enough white kids" comment came to light.
The lawmaker stressed his experience as an East Coast lawyer working with black and Latino clients.
Maupin and Stringer said there was no exchange of cash or other considerations for the news conference in Phoenix.
The Arizona Republic reported last year on fees Maupin demanded to take up the civil rights cases of a Phoenix woman.
An Arizona Republican Party spokeswoman said party Chairman Jonathan Lines wasn't sold on Stringer's performance. Lines has called on Stringer to step down.
"I find this to be highly offensive, insensitive and counterproductive. Chairman Lines shares my sentiments," spokeswoman Ayshia Connors said in a prepared statement.