A supporter of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, denied that a joke he made yesterday while introducing the Republican gubernatorial candidate at a rally was anti-Semitic.
John Whitbeck, the chairman of Virginia’s 10th congressional district Republican committee, told a joke about the “head of the Jewish faith” presenting the pope with a “bill for the Last Supper” during remarks introducing Cuccinelli at Tuesday’s rally.
Whitbeck told the Washington Free Beacon that he does not believe the joke was anti-Semitic, and that the outrage over his comments was “wholly manufactured by American Bridge,” a left-wing super PAC that tracks Republican candidates.
“At yesterday's rally, I told a joke. I did not tell an anti-semitic joke. I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service,” said Whitbeck.
“Any alleged outrage over this joke has been wholly manufactured by American Bridge, an organization founded by Democrat activist David Brock and funded by Georg[e] Soros,” he added. “American Bridge, which has the sole purpose of electing Democrats by attacking Republicans, has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to defeating Ken Cuccinelli by any means they deem necessary.”
In his "joke," Whitbeck said that it was an old tradition for the “head of the Jewish faith” to meet with the new pope and present him with a piece of paper, which the pope ceremonially rejects.
“Well, this time around the pope said, ‘I gotta find out what’s on this piece of paper,’” said Whitbeck. “So he actually takes it from the head of the Jewish faith, he opens it, he looks at it, he closes it. And his counterpart says, ‘What was it?’ and he says, ‘Well, it was the bill for the Last Supper.’”
The comment was met with applause and laughter from the audience.
A voice off-camera could be heard wondering what the joke was about and why it was considered amusing.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington called Whitbeck’s joke “inappropriate and offensive” in a statement.
“Tenth District Republican Chairman John Whitbeck’s anti-Semitic joke at the opening of an event for Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli has no place in civil political discourse and it was inappropriate and offensive,” stated Ron Halber, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington.
Whitbeck said the timing of the outrage over his joke was “not coincidental,” and pointed to Cuccinelli’s alleged momentum in the race.
“Northern Virginia Technology Council's TechPAC's endorsement of Ken Cuccinelli over Terry McAuliffe has clearly changed momentum in the race for Governor,” said Whitbeck. “As evidenced by the failed attempt by Democrat Senators Howell, Saslaw and Favola to bully TechPAC to rescind its endorsement, supporters of Mr. McAuliffe are desperate to change the topic. It is, therefore, hardly a surprise that American Bridge has worked to accommodate the immediate needs of the McAuliffe campaign by attempting to create a controversy.”
Cuccinelli called the joke "inappropriate" at a press availability in Richmond on Wednesday.
"I wasn’t there, but I heard about it that night," he said. "And obviously I think it was inappropriate and certainly unfortunate – something if I had heard it at the time, I would have spoken to right there. It’s certainly not an appropriate thing to carry into public discussion we’re having."
In a statement to the Washington Post on Tuesday, Cuccinelli strategist Chris LaCivita called Whitbeck’s joke “wholly inappropriate and not connected to the campaign.”
The "leader of the Jewish faith" could not be reached for comment because he or she does not exist.