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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Eric Hovde

Courtesy of Eric Hovde

Exclusive: Eric Hovde criticized young people in past talks, recordings show

Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde has repeatedly accused young people of poor work ethic, drug use and crime, recordings from Hovde’s former speaking engagements show.

Hovde, a multi-millionaire with businesses in Madison and on the West Coast who is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin for her seat, writes on his campaign site that “unity and perseverance” can “restore the American Dream.” Recent Hovde tweets echo this sentiment and called on Wisconsinites to rally behind his campaign. 

“The worst problem facing our nation is the division. We are ripping apart our friendships and our families over politics,” Hovde posted on Feb. 23. “I’m in this fight to usher in a new brand of leadership and end politics as usual.” 

But that messaging is a sharp departure from previous remarks Hovde delivered at GOP events and banking forums in recent years. During a 2017 talk at the Jefferson County Republican Party’s “Pints and Politics” event, Hovde firmly criticized school boards, universities and immigration approaches in Wisconsin, blaming some of the policy on Baldwin's victory.

He specifically targeted the Madison school system as a “train wreck” and said creating gender-neutral bathrooms is “nuts.”

“We got to such an absurd level at the end of Obama’s presidency that the big issue was transsexual bathrooms, what?” he said. “You are talking less than .4% of the public, and you're talking about forcing every municipality and school district to create a unisex bathroom.” 

While approximately 1.6 million people ages 13 and older — 0.6% of the population — identify as transgender in the United States, Wisconsin has seen numerous bills that would restrict gender-affirming care for minors and prohibit transgender students from participating in sports.  

In the same talk, Hovde said “criminal, illegal aliens in our country” should be deported.

“I mean, I’m in agreement with illegal immigrants being here but criminal ones? How can you even debate that? How could anybody say ‘no, we're gonna fight to protect rapists, murderers [and] thieves,’” he said.

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Minutes later, he labeled college students who protested as “so stupid” and said students cannot respectfully debate on college campuses anymore. 

“They're so stupid they don't even understand they're behaving exactly — 'we're stopping you because you'll create violence.' Wait, so you're creating violence because you think what I say may create violence?” Hovde said. “And then they say we’re fascists? Wait, you’re doing exactly what fascists did.”

Hovde again criticized young people in 2021 remarks at a Sunwest Bank Economic Forum held at Newport Beach, California. Hovde is chairman and CEO of Sunwest Bank.

He said young people are not as incorporated into the labor force as people in the Baby Boomer generation as a result of drug use and poor work ethic.

“There's something going on with our younger people not entering into the labor force, but they have in the past. I fear part of it could be the big chronic drug problem that our country has had with opiates,” Hovde said. “I think part of it is kids haven't been taught the same work ethic that the Baby Boom generation has.”

The opioid epidemic is not new. In a May 2021 study, the National Library of Medicine found the opioid epidemic emerged between 1945 and 1960. Researchers wrote the epidemic’s genesis can be traced to Baby Boom generational factors such as a culture of drug experimentation, increased cigarette smoking and the Vietnam War. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exasperated opioid overdose deaths by 41% and another 18% in 2021, according to the National Safety Council. The 35- to 44-year age group experienced the most opioid overdose deaths between 2019-2020, with few deaths related to children younger than 15. 

At the 2023 Sunwest Bank Economic Forum, Hovde criticized young people for being “less productive” and “less resilient” than the generations before them. 

“There's some wonderful, strong young people out there, don't get me wrong. But as a whole, how could 77% not qualify for military service?” Hovde said. “What made them less productive? What made them less resilient, less grit?”

The 2020 Pentagon study Hovde cited found that 77% of Americans ages 17 to 24 do not qualify for military service due to drug abuse, mental health or obesity. The study also found that 44% of those disqualified for more than one reason. 

Hovde also said everyone in his generation had jobs, saying cell phones and social media have had negative effects on the current workforce. 

“It's this damn device that has been so corrosive and social media… I mean, you see it, I have a buddy who is a big developer, and every time you watch the construction site, he says, ‘it drives me nuts. Because I see good people, instead of hammering nails and building, they're sitting there looking at their phones,’” Hovde said. 

Hovde did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Anna Kleiber

Anna Kleiber is an arts editor for The Daily Cardinal. She also reports on state politics and campus news. Follow her on Twitter at @annakleiber03.

Ava Menkes

Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.

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