Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nev.) has spent his final term in office working to funnel money into primary races in a push to flip Congress, but reports about comments he made to a Muslim congressional candidate could hinder his efforts.
Reid reportedly urged a Muslim Democrat to end his congressional campaign in Nevada during a private meeting last year because of his religion, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Jesse Sbaih, who immigrated to the U.S. from Jordan 29 years ago, said Reid told him that a “Muslim cannot win this race” and advised him to drop out.
Reid’s political machine in Nevada has given him substantial sway in the state’s Democratic races. Senate Majority PAC, run by former Reid aides and dedicated to electing Democrats to Congress, has already spent more than $3 million in the 2016 election cycle.
Sbaih told the Post he met with Reid in an attempt to clinch his support during his first run for political office but said he was turned away because of his faith.
“I did not feel that this was an issue. They made it an issue,” Sbaih told the Post. “I just turned 40. Been in this country for 29 years. And it’s just absolutely shocking that this occurred.”
Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Reid, called Sbaih a “liar” and denied his claims.
Sbaih provided the Post with emails and text messages sent during the time of the meeting. In one exchange, Sbaih told a Reid ally that he was “profoundly disheartened and saddened that the Democratic Party is refusing to accept a candidate like me because of my religion and ethnicity.”
America Rising, a Republican political action committee, said that Sbaih’s account raises “uncomfortable questions” for candidates receiving support from Reid and could “carry serious consequences for Democrats far beyond the retiring Reid” if the story is confirmed.
Sbaih is running in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes a portion of Las Vegas suburbs.
Jacky Rosen, a Democrat who heads a synagogue in the district, is challenging Sbaih in the primary race. Top Nevada reporter Jon Ralston reported in January that Reid personally recruited Rosen to run against Sbaih.