Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter is sending Islamophobic mail pieces to voters in his Southern California district, attacking his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, for his deceased grandfather alleged ties to a 1972 terrorist attack.
The mailers show a photo of one of the terrorists involved in an attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics wearing a ski mask on one side, and photos of Campa-Najjar and Muslim Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, on the other. Campa-Najjar is Christian.
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“Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ammar Campa-Najjar … these three radical Democrats want you to forget their anti-semitism or family-terrorist ties!” a note from Hunter states on the back side of the mailer. “But as a Marine I’ll never forget the 1983 Beirut bombings and the 1972 Olympic murders!”
Hunter’s campaign confirmed that it is distributing the mailer, which solicits contributions from donors.
“It is a piece put out by Congressman Hunter’s campaign,” said Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison. “It’s a hard-hitting piece because these are significant issues that our opponent refuses to acknowledge. This is just yet another example of a full-time candidate doing anything to get some attention because after three straight years of campaigning, Ammar has failed to gain any traction on substantive issues that affect our district.”
“That’s interesting coming from a part-time congressman sitting on zero committees,” said Campa-Najjar who runs his own public affairs firm and works in academia.
Campa-Najjar is challenging Hunter for a second straight election, following Hunter’s victory, 52 percent to 48 percent, in the 2018 midterms. In that election, Hunter and his allies attacked Campa-Najjar, who has passed government security clearances, for the terrorist act Campa-Najjar’s grandfather, Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, allegedly committed. Campa-Najjar never met his grandfather, who died before the Democrat was born.
“The closer Duncan Hunter gets to his criminal trial, the more absurd his lies and racist attacks become,” said Campa-Najjar, who runs his own public affairs firm and works in academia. “At this point, it’s pretty clear that Congressman Hunter has lost all ability to tell the difference between right and wrong, fact and fiction. It’s one scandal after another, one embarrassing news story after another, one potential crime after another, one courtroom appearance after another, and one lie after another.”
Campa-Najjar repeatedly addressed the accusations against his grandfather and condemned the Munich attack and his grandfather during campaign stops across the district in 2018. Earlier this year, Campa-Najjar announced he would again challenge Hunter, whose trial on campaign corruption charges is slated to begin in September.
In 2018, Hunter’s campaign ran a television ad trying to tie Campa-Najjar to the attack, accusing him of using “three different names to hide his family’s ties to terrorism” and baselessly saying Campa-Najjar was supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. During a speech to supporters last September, Hunter claimed “radical Muslims are trying to infiltrate the U.S. government.”
Hunter sent out a fundraising solicitation striking on similar themes in April, POLITICO reported. As for the latest mailer, Campa-Najjar suggested the fundraising solicitations aren’t actually about the next election; the two men aren’t scheduled to face off on the ballot until California’s top-two primary next March.
“He’s paying his legal fees with this,” said Campa-Najjar. “That’s the impetus behind it.”
Hunter’s trial is set to begin Sept. 10. Prosecutors allege that he improperly spent campaign money funding vacations and extramarital affairs. Hunter’s lawyers, seemingly acknowledging the affairs, argued in a court filing that they should be off-limits because he is “not on trial for being an unfaithful husband” and asserting that prosecutors are trying to “embarrass” him. Hunter’s wife Margaret, who was also charged, pleaded guilty to one charge and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Earlier this week, a federal judge refused to dismiss the case against Hunter after Hunter’s defense attorneys argued the case was politically motivated.
Campa-Najjar has repeatedly condemned the Munich attacks and his grandfather’s apparent role in them. But now, Campa-Najjar is talking on the campaign trail about how his grandfather may have been falsely accused of playing a role in the Olympic terrorist plot, citing a historian speaking to a reporter from The Times of Israel.
“If he was involved in the Munich attack, I fully condemn him,” Campa-Najjar said of his grandfather, al-Najjar. “If these reports are true that he had no involvement whatsoever, then there is nothing to condemn.”
“Voters should judge me on my own record and my own experiences; judge me on me,” said Campa-Najjar.
Other reporters who spoke to the San Diego Union Tribune were also less certain of his grandfather’s involvement.
Jeremy White contributed to this report.