On the eve of the Democratic primary, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy blasted petition candidate Lee Whitnum, calling her anti-Semitic and saying statements she had made about Israel are “deeply disturbing.”
She and Jim Himes fellow Greenwich resident Jim Himes are seeking the Democratic nomination to face off against 4th District incumbent Rep. Christopher Shays this November.
Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, made his comments at a brief press conference Monday as a reaction to an editorial written by Ms. Whitnum in Sunday’s edition of the Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate.” In the editorial, Ms. Whitnum, who has made several past statements critical of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), stated that the group was “instrumental in getting the United States to invade Iraq and that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were retaliation by Al-Qaeda for America’s close relationship with Israel.
Ms. Whitnum accused AIPAC of “influence peddling” with politicians, including her primary opponent, Mr. Himes, who recently went on a trip to Israel. Ms. Whitnum charged that AIPAC paid for it and that the group now has Mr. Himes “in it’s pocket.” Mr. Himes has denied that AIPAC had anything to do with the trip and has criticized Ms. Whitnum for her remarks about Israel and the Sept. 11 attacks calling them “abominable.”
In a statement issued Monday, Michael Sachse, communications director for the Himes campaign, said, “We are pleased that people in Stamford denounced Lee Whitnum’s extreme statements, such as implying that Israel is responsible for 9/11 and the War in Iraq. Jim Himes has been clear that these statements are wrong and offensive. We are confident that Connecticut voters will reject this ugly rhetoric, and will choose Jim Himes to face off against Chris Shays in the fall.”
On Monday, Mr. Malloy, a Himes supporter, took it further, directly labeling Ms. Whitnum’s comments as anti-Semitic, saying she was invoking “age-old stereotypes of Jewish media control in her attacks on Himes.”( )
“I haven’t been active in this primary campaign and I have only had two conversations with Lee when she called my house seeking my support,” Mr. Malloy said. “I’ve observed this campaign and I’ve been bothered by this campaign and the things that have been said. I thought for a moment that ignoring this woman and some of the most outlandish thing she’s said would be the best policy to not give it more credence but when I saw her statement in the Advocate I found it to be most offensive and taking a full swing at those of us in this country who support the state of Israel.”
He later added, “To claim that Israel is somehow to blame for 9-11 is deeply disturbing and quite frankly belies a disturbed sense that Ms. Whitnum has. I also have come to the conclusion that her statements are unfortunately anti-Semitic in their nature.”
Mr. Malloy said he wishes he had condemned her earlier and that his timing has nothing to do with tomorrow’s election.( )
“She has crossed the line and is clearly anti-Semitic,” Mr. Malloy said.
Ms. Whitnum openly admits she’s raw and unpolished and doesn’t always say what people want to hear, from immigration to the war in Afghanistan — particularly in comparison to her party-endorsed competition.
But, she said, her voice is the only one speaking for the people. The 48-year-old substitute teacher forced the primary after a petition drive got her the required number of signatures to do so.
Turnout for tomorrow’s primary is expected to be low and Ms. Whitnum admits chances of winning tomorrow’s primary are low. Mr. Himes got the party’s support at its convention earlier this year. He has raised record amounts of campaign money for an opponent against Mr. Shays.
“I do not anticipate that this woman will win the primary,” Mr. Malloy said. “I do not anticipate, I hope, that she will get too many votes in the primary.”
In an e-mailed statement to the Post, Ms. Whitnum responded to Mr. Malloy’s statements, urging people to do research on AIPAC and on neo-conservatism. She rejected the idea she is anti-Semitic and accused politicians of being scared by AIPAC.
“Our politicians appease AIPAC for fear that they will be Percyized, which is a Washington term used to describe former Senator Charles Percy of Illinois who felt he lost his reelection because AIPAC funded his pro-Israel rival,” Ms. Whitnum said. “No one stands up to Israel and for that reason. That is why the settlements continue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict never gets resolved and that is why anti-American sentiment will continue to grow. I am not anti-Israel. I am for taking a tough-love stand with Israel for the good of the United States and Israel. I am not anti-Semitic just anti-AIPAC and AIPAC’S control on our members of Congress.”
Mr. Malloy was joined at the podium Monday by Jewish leaders from the district. Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer of Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield, said Ms. Whitnum’s remarks went beyond politics and it is important for them to be condemned.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and political debate is certainly healthy,” Mr. Eisenkramer told the Post. “But when it turns into personal attacks of an ethnic group it becomes something more. This is anti-Semitism. Saying Israel had something to do with 9/11 is incredibly offensive.”
Veronica Reich, a Stamford resident who attended the press conference, also said the comments went beyond who was supporting whom in tomorrow’s primary.
“We need to speak out when you see language like the kind of language she uses,” Ms. Reich said to the Post. “It’s offensive, I think, not just to Jews or supporters of Israel or Himes supporters, but to everyone. I found her comments strongly offensive.”