Mandela Barnes, the Democratic Senate candidate in Wisconsin, praised Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei for supporting Black Lives Matter, said he wanted to be the "Dennis Rodman" of the Assad regime, and used his Twitter account to defend some of the world’s most notorious dictators and repressive regimes.
On Jan. 1, 2015, Barnes applauded a Twitter post by Khamenei that slammed the U.S. government over slavery.
"The issue of US govt oppression against blacks is a 100s year-old issue," wrote Khamenei, adding the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Barnes "liked" Khamenei’s post on Twitter and responded to the Iranian leader: "The first tweet of 2015 from @khamenei_ir is #BlackLivesMatter. Let that sink in. May This be a most wonderful year for you and yours."
Barnes’s social media posts could raise questions about the candidate’s willingness to align himself with anti-American and undemocratic leaders. The news comes as Barnes, the Wisconsin lieutenant governor and former state legislator, has faced criticism over his repeated appearances on RT, a Russian state-run news network that the U.S. State Department has described as "propaganda support for the Kremlin's foreign policy objectives."
Barnes also wrote several posts opposing any U.S. effort to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in 2013, while the embattled dictator was massacring his own people and using chemical weapons.
"I'd like to pull a Rodman next. I should have hopped that fence to Syria when I had the chance," wrote Barnes on April 9, 2013, a few weeks after Assad’s regime carried out a deadly Sarin gas attack against its opposition.
He also opposed efforts by the United States to aid the Syrian opposition after Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
"Seeing school administrators plead for more state aid, but seeing that our country is able to send weapons to Syria makes me more anti war," wrote Barnes in June 2013.
After the Obama administration opened up diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2014, Barnes wrote that he wanted to work at the "embassy in Cuba" and asked "where would one apply for such an opportunity?"
Barnes also appeared to criticize the removal of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, writing in 2016 that "when you drop cookies, you get crumbs everywhere. Then you gotta get a vacuum, and that's what happened when we removed Saddam."
Barnes previously joked that his father almost named him "Muammar," an apparent reference to the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
"My dad told me a couple of years ago, he said I was ‘lucky I was born when I was born.’ If I was born five years earlier, my name would have been Muammar," said Barnes during a Civil Rights panel discussion in 2015.
A spokesman for Barnes's Republican challenger Sen. Ron Johnson said the posts were evidence of Barnes’s "extreme positions."
"Not only has Moscow Mandela Barnes gone on Russian propaganda TV six times to denigrate American law enforcement, but he has also cozied up to awful dictators and communist groups around the world," said Johnson spokesman Mike Marinella. "His extreme positions are wrong for Wisconsin and would make our state less prosperous and less free."