A Republican candidate for the state senate in Connecticut is being criticized over a mailer that depicts a Jewish Democrat looking wide-eyed and clutching money.
And the Republican is defending it, days after a shooting that killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
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The mailer was circulated by the campaign for Ed Charamut, who’s facing off against Democrat Matt Lesser for the seat.
Lesser is shown with exaggerated eyes and gripping money beneath a slogan that recounts the candidate’s voting record, saying he voted to raise taxes and against cuts that could have saved taxpayers money, according to Charamut’s campaign.
Lesser had difficulty believing that the mailer was real when he first learned about it, The Washington Post reported.
“I assumed it was some sort of mistake or misunderstanding,” he said.
In a statement tweeted by NBC Connecticut reporter Max Reiss, Charamut accused Lesser of “using the Democrat playbook of identity politics to hide from his record.”
“Those wishing to portray a graphic illustration as something hateful are completely wrong,” it said.
“I reject hate speech in all its forms.”
Jewish groups blasted the ad as offensive.
“The juxtaposition of a Jewish candidate for office and money in this manner suggests an age-old anti-Semitic trope,” Steve Ginsburg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Connecticut, told the Hartford Courant.
The Republican mailer hearkened back to anti-Semitic propaganda such as the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a false document that peddled a conspiracy theory about Jews plotting to take over the world, Stuart Miller, academic director of the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life at the University of Connecticut, told the Courant.
“I cannot believe that it is an innocent allusion to supposedly money-spending Democrat,” Miller said.
“It just leaves me shaking my head as to the lengths some people will go to get elected or to stay in office, particularly in the present climate.”
The New York Times noted that Lesser’s wife Sarah grew up close to the Tree of Life Synagogue, where the shooting happened.
He spent Sunday at a vigil for the shooting victims.
“Then to come home to this,” Lesser said.
“It’s resulted in difficult conversations about anti-Semitism with my family and my neighbours. I am comforted by the support I have received from Christian pastors and lay leaders and from Republican officeholders horrified by Mr. Charamut’s poor judgment.”
For his part, Charamut’s Facebook page showed the candidate with a symbol for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism — a Star of David with multi-coloured arms linked together.
The symbol started to emerge following the Pittsburgh shooting.