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California Republican Steve Knight featured a racist in his campaign ad

Knight said he's “proud” to have the vote of a racist who has posted numerous anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments on Facebook.

Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018. (Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018. (Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) is “proud” to have the vote of a veteran who has posted numerous anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and racist comments on Facebook.

Knight, who is currently facing a tough re-election campaign against Democratic challenger Katie Hill, posted a television ad on his campaign website featuring veteran David Brayton, who thanks the incumbent for helping him get a lung transplant and proclaims that he will vote for Knight because “he gets stuff done for us.” In a screenshot obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Knight also shared the ad on his campaign Facebook page, writing that he is “proud to have earned David Brayton’s vote.”

The LA Times reported that, in addition to Brayton’s dozens of bigoted comments, he has also posted comments promoting violence against the media and left-wing protesters, while praising President Donald Trump.

News of Brayton’s comments and the Knight campaign’s decision to feature him in an ad comes just days after Robert Bowers, who shared anti-Semitic posts on social media, was charged with going on a shooting rampage in a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people. Just days prior to that, Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc was arrested for allegedly mailing bombs to prominent Democrats and members of the media.

“If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast,” Brayton wrote in May 2017.

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In September 2017, Brayton posted a photo of a yellow Star of David with the German word “Jude” in the center, the badge Jews were forced to wear under Nazi rule during World War II, with the caption, “Perhaps all Jews on television should wear the ‘sign’ in this last photo … just to make sure the audience knows … wink wink.”

Facebook stated Thursday morning that it took down Brayton’s page for community standard violations. Although Knight’s campaign strategist Matt Rexroad told the LA Times Thursday that the campaign did not intend on taking down the ad, it was ultimately removed from the campaign website and the Facebook page hours after the Times first reported the news Thursday morning.

Shortly after the ad was removed, Katie Hill released a statement slamming Knight for “elevat[ing] an individual who regularly and unabashedly expresses racist, violent, and hateful views — to the point of featuring that individual in his most prominent campaign ad. Our country has become dangerously divided because politicians have failed to denounce, and in many cases have subtly or explicitly encouraged, such hateful speech and behavior among their supporters.”

Brayton’s racists posts include one in May of an illustration of two white men putting a noose around former President Barack Obama’s neck. The caption reads, “You will hang by the neck until dead … Take your smug ass to hell.”

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In June 2017, Brayton posted Ku Klux Klan insignia. Following the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in August 2017, Brayton took to Facebook to slam the left-wing counter-protesters.

“May your bodies stack up and you rest in hell you have chose for you and yours in declaring war on Americans,” he wrote, according to the LA Times. “You ARE the enemy of America. So is your mouthpiece the corrupt fake media.”

Brayton’s most frequently posted offensive content was about Muslims. He once shared a photo of a burning Quran and one of his profile pictures was of a man with two machine guns and a caption that read, “Hear me Islam … I will slaughter you with your own knife.”

In Knight’s ad, Brayton is wearing a shirt with the word “Infidel” printed within an American flag — a label that serves to frame the War on Terror as a “holy war,” with the U.S. military in the role of “crusader.”   

In an interview with the LA Times, Brayton defended his posts, claiming that “Islam has decided they’re going to kill everybody … They’ve always done that.”

Though Brayton’s posts have been removed from Facebook and from Knight’s pages, the campaign’s apparent unwillingness to vet the individual featured in a campaign video has struck a nerve with LA’s Muslim community.

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“I question Rep. Knight’s intent when he writes that Mr. Brayton is who he works for. Is he working for avowed hate-mongering bigots or is he working for the rest of the 25th Congressional District, who are tolerant of our differences?” Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said in a statement.

According to a recent BuzzFeed analysis, Islamophobia is common among Republican elected officials, with lawmakers in 49 states openly attacking Muslims verbally or with discriminatory legislation since 2015. A report released Thursday by the New America think tank found that 71 percent of Republicans do not believe Islam is compatible with U.S. values.