Katie Hobbs Apologizes “Unequivocally” for Firing Black Woman Six Years Ago

Ulysse Bex/Cronkite News Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs testifies before the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee on Oct. 26, 2021.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has said she made a group decision with two others to fire Talonya Adams from her job as a Democratic policy adviser in 2015, when Hobbs was the Senate’s top Democrat. Federal juries found Adams’ termination was discriminatory. Last month, she was awarded $2.75 million, though the judgement was later scaled back.

Hobbs has apologized “unequivocally” Wednesday to Adams a Black woman who was fired from her legislative job six years ago, her most forceful response to a firestorm that has threatened to upend her frontrunner campaign for governor.

Hobbs initially deflected responsibility, blaming Republicans for underpaying Adams and making the ultimate decision to fire her. She, however, took full responsibility and apologized stating she “fell short of taking real accountability.”

“I’m truly sorry for the real harm that I caused Ms. Adams and her family,” Hobbs said in a three-minute video posted on Twitter. “My response to the jury verdict was short sighted, unnecessarily defensive and failed to meet the moment.”

A federal jury in 2019 found Adams was discriminated against based on her race and gender. She was awarded $1 million and got her job back, but a federal judge ordered a new trial. A second jury last month again sided with Adams following a three-day trial and awarded $2.75 million in damages, though the total was later reduced because of a $300,000 cap on employment discrimination judgements under federal law.

With back pay and compensation for lost benefits, Adams was awarded a combined $353,617.88.

In her apology video, Hobbs, who is white, reckoned with racism and her own role in combatting it. She said her understanding of racism has been too narrow, and she’s missed opportunities to fight for justice.

“For too long, I’ve allowed myself to only show up where it’s comfortable,” Hobbs said. “I know that the only way to earn your trust is to not only continue to reflect upon my past actions but to put in the work. I need to be more of an ally. I need to be your advocate.”

– Ella Breedlove