New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell has no intention of distancing himself from a prominent Arab-American supporter who accused the state’s Jewish community—as well as his Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Steve Rothman—of being more loyal to Israel than America.
Earlier today, Pascrell surrogate Herb Klein, a former member of Congress, called the controversy a non-issue.
"The ongoing ‘controversy’ being laid at Bill Pascrell’s door as a result of an op-ed authored by someone not affiliated with the Pascrell campaign has proven to be a distraction from the issues confronting the 9th Congressional District’s Democratic voters," Klein said.
The Free Beacon was first to report this week that Aref Assaf, president of the New Jersey-based American Arab Forum, accused Rothman of being "Israel’s man in District 9." Assaf has donated to Pascrell’s campaign in the past and has publicly expressed his support for the lawmaker.
"As total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s," Assaf wrote in an article for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Yesterday, Rothman’s office took issue with Assaf’s charge of dual loyalty, maintaining that the congressman will not apologize for his staunch support of Israel.
Today, Rothman once again condemned Pascrell for sticking by Assaf and not rejecting the toxic rhetoric.
"We are disappointed that Congressman Pascrell refuses to disavow his donor's ridiculous and unfounded attack," Rothman spokesperson Aaron Keyak said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon this afternoon.
"Mr. Assaf is a supporter of and donor to Congressman Pascrell," Keyak said. "We stand by our request that Congressman Pascrell disavow these attacks and ask his supporters to stop this harmful, dishonest, and bigoted rhetoric. Questioning Congressman Rothman's loyalty to America is a serious charge."
Rothman and Pascrell are locked in a tough primary race after redistricting forced the two into competition. The election, which will be held June 5, is being closely watched by New Jersey’s pro-Israel community.