COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel has sided on social media with the right-wing personality behind the online conspiracy theory dubbed “pizzagate” over an anti-hate group seeking to call out the man’s behavior.
Mandel, the Ohio state treasurer seeking an election rematch against Democrat Sherrod Brown, retweeted a post Thursday by attorney and author Mike Cernovich that accused the Anti-Defamation League of “inciting terrorism.”
Cernovich’s post came after a new league report identified him as part of the “alt-lite” movement. The group defines such activists as rejecting overtly white supremacist ideology but embracing misogyny and xenophobia.
FILE – In this Oct. 27, 2012, file photo, Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican nominee challenging the re-election bid of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks before a campaign rally for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., vice presidential running mate of former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, at the Gradall Industries Inc. plant in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Mandel, seeking an election rematch against Brown in 2018, sided on social media Thursday, July 20, 2017, with right-wing personality Mike Cernovich, retweeting a post that accuses the Anti-Defamation League of “inciting terrorism.” (AP Photo/Phil Long, File)
Mandel backed Cernovich and another man, Jack Posobiec, against the league’s labeling. Posobiec was identified in the report as “alt-lite.”
“Sad to see (the league) become a partisan witchhunt group targeting people for political beliefs,” Mandel posted.
The tweet drew immediate pushback on Twitter, calling Mandel “disgusting” and accusing him of being hateful, misogynistic and racist.
Besides his involvement with “pizzagate,” an unfounded conspiracy theory that claims Democrats harbor child sex slaves at a pizza restaurant, Cernovich has claimed that date rape doesn’t exist and “diversity is code for white genocide.”
Posobiec is credited with planting a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump rally to discredit protesters. Melania is the first name of President Donald Trump’s wife. Posobiec also was among protesters who rushed the stage at the New York Public Theater’s recent Trump-inspired staging of “Julius Caesar.”
The league stood by its decision to identify both men as major figures in the burgeoning “alt-lite” movement, which bears similarities but is less staunch than what’s called “alt-right,” or alternative right.
“For more than a century, ADL has been guided by its mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and fight for equal watch Justice League full movie for all – not by politics,” it said in a statement. “We call out those who preach anti-Semitism and bigotry regardless of their background, party, or standing.”
Mandel, who is Jewish, stood by his position Friday.
“As the grandson of Holocaust survivors and as a Marine who defended our freedom, Treasurer Mandel believes the ADL is dead wrong for creating hit lists on American citizens,” said campaign spokeswoman Erica Nurnberg. “Of all organizations, the ADL should know that making target lists of people based on their political beliefs is a dangerous practice and slippery slope.”
Posobiec posted a video on Twitter of himself responding to the league report in front of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland. In an apparent reference to the Holocaust, he said, “It would be wise of ADL to remember the history of what happened the last time people started going around making lists of undesirables.”
The league called the concentration camp memorial “hallowed ground” and its use in such a video “offensive and twisted.”
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FILE – In this June 25, 2017, file photo, Mike Cernovich, a right-wing author and attorney who has promoted a conspiracy theory about Democrats running a child-sex slavery ring from a Washington pizza restaurant’s basement, speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington. Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican seeking an election rematch in 2018 against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sided on social media Thursday, July 20, 2017, with Cernovich, retweeting a post that accuses the Anti-Defamation League of “inciting terrorism.” (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)