California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter isn’t about to let a 48-page federal indictment stop him from scraping way down at the bottom of the barrel ahead of the midterm elections in an attempt to smear his Democratic opponent as a scary Muslim terrorist—despite the fact that he’s not even Muslim at all (though even if he were, the ad would still be bigoted trash).
In the ad, which was quietly released last week by the Hunter campaign, Democratic nominee Ammar Campa-Najja is accused of attempting to “infiltrate” Congress by hiding his familial connections to terrorism. Campa-Najja, the Hunter campaign concludes at the end of the 30-second spot, is “a risk we can’t ignore.”
The ad, complete with scary voiceover and official-looking font seemingly intended to invoke a national security report, highlights Campa-Najja’s paternal grandfather—a senior member of the Black September group responsible for the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics. But despite its ominous, Islamophobic overtones (or, really, just tones) the ad fails to mention that Campa-Najja’s grandfather died more than a decade-and-a half before the candidate was even alive. As the Washington Post notes:
Campa-Najjar said in an interview that he never knew his grandfather, who died 16 years before Campa-Najjar was born. He condemned the Munich attacks.
“I denounce those actions,” he said.
As for the charge that Campa-Najjar had changed his name—Hunter’s claim is only partially true: As the Post explained, he was born Ammar Yasser Najjar, and added his mother’s maiden name while dropping Yasser, his father’s name, during a period of estrangement from that side of the family. Again, this was long before he ever ran for Congress.
But there’s another problem with Hunter’s grotesque reliance on Islamophobia in this latest add (beyond, y’know, the fact that Islamophobia is reprehensible in any context). Campa-Najjar isn’t Muslim. He’s a Catholic.
As Eugene Fields, Los Angeles spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations—a 501(c)3 nonprofit that is, contrary to Hunter’s ad, not allowed to endorse candidates—told the Times of San Diego:
This video is bigoted, promotes Islamophobia, is factually incorrect and should be immediately taken down. Ammar Campa-Najjar is not Muslim; he is a Christian.
Hunter’s charge of “infiltration” is even more ridiculous given the fact that according to the Post, Campa-Najjar is a former White House official under President Barack Obama whose role required a high level security clearance after extensive federal vetting.
Not that any of that seems to matter to the Hunter campaign. During a recent campaign speech, Hunter himself touched upon Campa-Najjar’s lineage, saying:
His signs should actually say: Ammar Joseph Campa 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.
Hunter, meanwhile, enjoys a wide lead over Campa-Najjar, despite the fact that he has been indicted on host of campaign finance violations. He would, according to the Post, be unable to obtain a security clearance if he applied today, due to the charges against him.