Brewer Says She Meant No Disrespect to Obama

AP | 1/26/2012, 5:28 p.m.

Brewer is among the Republican governors who oppose the federal health care overhaul, but the illegal immigration issue has been a particular sore point between Obama and Brewer.

The U.S. Justice Department has challenged Arizona's controversial 2010 immigration enforcement law in court, while the administration and Brewer are at odds over whether the federal government has done enough to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Thursday, Brewer drew support from callers to conservative-oriented talk shows, but the incident left others in the state shaking their heads.

The Arizona Republic, the state's largest newspaper, editorialized that the image of Brewer wagging a scolding finger at the visiting president "now pretty much defines this state's relationship with Washington, D.C., to the world."

Bruce Merrill, a longtime Arizona pollster and a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, said there are two sides to the encounter, so it's hard to fully analyze what happened and why.

But the incident follows past incidents in which Arizona for a time balked at declaring a state holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr., and Arizona State University refused to award Obama an honorary degree, Merrill noted.

"It reinforces the image of Arizona being kind of a cowboy state that doesn't show a lot of respect," he said of the airport encounter.

The two mayors who stood next to Brewer during the airport encounter were not available for interviews Thursday, their offices said.

"He doesn't want to get involved," said Melissa Randazzo, spokeswoman for Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, a Republican.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's office said his schedule had no time for an interview. Stanton is a Democrat.