With less than a month to the midterm elections, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) seems to be feeling desperate — and racist.
The disgraced incumbent, who was indicted over the summer for allegedly embezzling more than $250,000 in campaign funds over seven years, has resorted to Islamophobic smears and attack ads against his opponent, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, branding him as a “security risk” and a “radical Muslim.”
In a 30-second ad, which was released by the Hunter campaign in late September, viewers are told that Campa-Najjar, who is of Palestinian-Mexican descent, is trying to “infiltrate Congress,” that he has used different names to “hide his family’s ties to terrorism,” and that “his grandfather masterminded the Munich Olympic massacre.” And that’s just in the first 10 seconds.
The ad goes on to include news clips claiming that San Diegans do not support the candidate and that he’s backed by the Council on American Islamic Relations (a 501c(3) nonprofit that is not allowed to endorse candidates) and the Muslim Brotherhood. It ends with an image of Duncan Hunter in military uniform presumably during his tour in Iraq, standing in front of a mural of what looks like Saddam Hussein. The message, one can only assume, is that Hunter is well-equipped to face off against the dangerous other that is Campa-Najjar.
Hunter’s ad is riddled with racist lies. Campa-Najjar was, in fact, born and raised in San Diego. He never met his grandfather, who died nearly two decades before he was born, and has denounced his role in the Munich attacks. As the Washington Post reported in its debunk of Hunter’s claims, Campa-Najjar’s father wasn’t around much during his childhood and Campa-Najjar was raised largely by his mother. He changed his name long before running for Congress to pay homage to his mother’s heritage. Campa-Najjar has said that the Muslim Brotherhood would consider him an apostate because he is not Muslim — he’s Christian.
Campa-Najjar worked in the Obama White House and in the Labor Department, obtaining a security clearance to do so. As the Post explains, Hunter, on the other hand, would not be able to obtain a security clearance because of his indictment.
The ad isn’t Hunter’s first foray into Islamophobia and fear-mongering. In an audio recording of a September campaign event obtained by the Times of San Diego, Hunter makes numerous bigoted statements against Muslims and against Campa-Najjar personally.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that the Muslims think that we’re a bad country because of what we have. They are disgusting in what they do in Afghanistan,” Hunter said, referring to a disturbing story about an Army Staff Sergeant who allegedly encountered pedophilia in a village in Afghanistan.
Hunter goes even further, attacking Campa-Najjar for trying to “infiltrate” the government.
“He changed his name from Ammar Yasser Najjar to Ammar Campa-Najjar so he sounds Hispanic … 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.”
He continued his rant, “You have radical Islamist propaganda being pushed on the kids in our San Diego school districts. Have you seen that? Where they put them on prayer rugs and say, ‘We’ve got to honor every religion.’ … Can you imagine being the parent of one of those kids? That’s what’s happening here. Sharia and Islamism — it wouldn’t be as dangerous if it was just a religion. It’s not just a religion. That’s why we’re fighting them.”
Again, Campa-Najjar isn’t Muslim. Though, it shouldn’t matter if he was, and it wouldn’t make Hunter’s ads and comments any less bigoted.
Recently, Hunter stooped even lower, getting three retired U.S. Marine Corps generals to sign their names to a letter to San Diego voters that brands Campa-Najjar as a security threat.
According to nonprofit organization VoteVets.org, the letter is a violation of Marine Corps policy, as it implies endorsement from the Marine Corps.
This letter is in violation of Marine Corps Policy. This is campaign related activity from the Hunter Campaign without a DOD political disclaimer. Immediately report these infractions to the @USMC IG 703-604-4526 so they can send a cease and desist letter #CA50 https://t.co/vi7b4pcat2
— VoteVets (@votevets) October 15, 2018
“Hunter’s ongoing attacks on me … aren’t just political; they’re pathological,” Campa-Najjar said in a tweet Monday. “While Hunter lacks personal accountability, voters know his family isn’t responsible for his actions & I’m not responsible for my family’s actions.”
Duncan Hunter Sr. was once congressman, but voters know it’s me and Duncan Jr. on the ballot this time — neither of our fathers are running for congress. Voters will judge us by our own merits, character, and record this election. May the better man win.
— Ammar Campa-Najjar (@ACampaNajjar) October 15, 2018
Hunter’s attempt to cast Islam and Muslims as vicious threats is remarkable in its lack of originality. Such claims have proliferated in the lead-up to the 2018 elections, as Republican candidates stoke voters’ most base fears in a desperate attempt to win. As The Guardian reported last week, such ads have become more common in the “post-2016 election climate largely because Trump’s well-documented reliance on personal attacks proved effective enough to win the White House.”
Since Hunter’s indictment in August, the Cook Political Report re-categorized the CA-50 race from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican.” Recent polls, however, show Hunter with a wide lead over Campa-Najjar.