Rep. Duncan Hunter is Running the Nastiest Campaign in the Country

I want to give Politico’s Morning Score some credit for how they reported on indicted and disgraced Rep. Duncan Hunter’s scurrilous political advertisement that suggests that his opponent is part of a secret Islamic takeover of our country.

RACE-BAITING — A recent ad from embattled GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter went well into the race-baiting territory and “earned” four Pinocchios from The Washington Post Fact Checker’s Salvador Rizzo. Rizzo wrote that the ad used “naked anti-Muslim bias in an effort to scare Californians into voting for an indicted Republican incumbent. The Democrat on the receiving end of these attacks isn’t even Muslim. All the claims in the ad are false, misleading or devoid of evidence.”

— A spokesman for Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democrat challenging Hunter, forcefully pushed back against the ad. “You know who is responsible for our actions is ourselves, and Duncan Hunter is the one under indictment and who has been stripped of his committee assignments,” campaign spokesman Nick Singer told my POLITICO colleague Jeremy White. “This is a man who is unhinged and is willing to play on our darkest corners, on the racism that has plagued this country for many years.”

If you look carefully, you’ll see that Politico nowhere repeats the actual “false, misleading or devoid of evidence” allegations. Why do Duncan Hunter’s work for him?

Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democratic nominee in California’s San Diego-based 50th congressional district, is only 29 years old. That means he was not yet born when Black September Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage and executed them at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was apparently one of the perpetrators of that unconscionable crime. It’s obviously unfair and insane to blame somebody for a crime their grandfather committed nearly two decades before they were born, but it’s also notable that Rep. Hunter is trying to turn this into a question of Islamic influence and terrorism.

Somewhere around seven percent of Palestinians are Christians and Sirhan Sirhan, who was (rightly or wrongly) convicted of assassinating Robert Kennedy, was a Christian who was reportedly incensed about America’s support for Israel. Clearly, Palestinian resistance, whether violent or non-violent, is not a strictly Islamic matter. In any case, Mr. Campa-Najjar is a Mexican-American Palestinian, and he is not a practitioner of the Islamic faith.

And it’s not just the advertisement, either. Duncan Hunter has been making the same case on the stump.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, the Alpine Republican fighting charges of misusing campaign funds, appeared to suggest in a speech to a women’s group that his election opponent is a “radical Muslim” and part of an attempt by Islamists to infiltrate the federal government.

“He changed his name from Ammar Yasser Najjar to Ammar Campa-Najjar so he sounds Hispanic,” Hunter said Monday night, according to audio of the event recorded by Ken Stone of the Times of San Diego.

“He just changed it again; he added a Joseph in there,” Hunter can be heard saying on the audio recording. “So his signs could actually say Joseph Campa or, or something. That is how hard, by the way, that the radical Muslims are trying to infiltrate the U.S. government. You had more Islamists run for office this year at the federal level than ever before in U.S. history.”

Here’s how the campaign responded when the Los Angeles Times called them on their rhetoric:

Hunter campaign spokesman Mike Harrison said the candidate was not calling Campa-Najjar a Muslim.

“He never made the claim that his opponent is Muslim. That’s for his opponent to answer,” Harrison said Wednesday. “What we have heard is he’s claimed to be a Christian, and again, that’s for Ammar’s campaign to discuss.”

In his speech, Hunter also brought up the fact that Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was a mastermind of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics that killed 11 Israelis. The grandfather was killed by Israeli commandos in 1973.

“What is a fact is our opponent has changed his name; that’s not in dispute. He does have family ties to terrorists; that’s not in dispute,” Harrison said. “Mr. Hunter was not saying he’s a Muslim.”

Duncan Hunter said that Ammar Campa-Najjar’s supposed name change demonstrated “how hard…the radical Muslims are trying to infiltrate the U.S. government,” but he did not say he was Muslim?

Huh. That does not make sense.

And it’s not even a fair description of why he changed his name, which is why the claim earned Four Pinocchios from the Washington Post‘s fact checker.

Campa-Najjar was born Ammar Yasser Najjar. He said he changed his last name to Campa-Najjar in honor of his mother’s family, the Campas, who helped raise him. The name change happened years before this House race in California…

…The claim that Campa-Najjar changed his name to “hide his family’s ties to terrorism” falls flat. “Najjar” is still there in his last name, just as “Ammar” remains his given name. The timing of these changes, well before this campaign began, for us dispel the notion that Campa-Najjar is trying to hide his family’s past from voters.

Both Duncan Hunter and his wife have been indicted for using more than a quarter million dollars in campaign funds to support their lifestyle, and it looks like a slam-dunk case. Yet, the district is so Republican that Hunter is still leading by fifteen points in the latest poll. Maybe Rep. Hunter doesn’t believe the polling data or maybe he’s just one of the worst people in the world, but he’s obviously not taking any chances with these kind of campaign tactics.

With any luck, the unfairness and bigotry and hatred and inaccuracy involved here will lead to a backlash and cause him to lose a campaign he was almost assured of winning despite his looming felony conviction.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.