Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is out on bail and back in the news.
The last time we saw the San Diego-based Republican in the headlines was in August after he was charged with a litany of crimes in a whopping 48 page indictment for illegally using campaign donations to support his lavish lifestyle. As laid out in that indictment, Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who was also charged, allegedly used campaign funds for very uncampaign-type events like a $250 plane ticket for a family pet, $462 worth of tequila shots and steak dinners at a bachelor party, and a vacation in Italy. The United States attorney who charged the Hunters alleged that the two had “falsified FEC campaign finance reports to cover their tracks.”
And a panicked Hunter was back in the headlines a few days after being charged when he went on Fox News and, like the stand-up guy he isn’t, blamed his wife for the crimes. Hunter told America: “I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally,” and then he slammed his wife, whom he had given power of attorney to: “Whatever she did, that’ll be looked at too.”
But now, with a little over month until Election Day in his increasingly tight race against 29-year-old Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, Hunter is going full anti-Muslim bigot. Last week, Hunter released a campaign ad accusing Campa-Najjar of being supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. And at a recent campaign event, after claiming that Campa-Najjar had changed his name to hide his true identity, Hunter warned that “radical Muslims are trying to infiltrate the U.S. government. You had more Islamists run for office this year at the federal level than ever before in U.S. history.”
Hmmm, so, per Hunter, Najjar is a “radical Muslim” and an “Islamist.” Well, here’s one of the big problems with that: Campa-Najjar is Christian. To be exact, he’s Protestant. As the pastor of his non-denominational Christian church, Mike Meeks, explained in a statement, “I have known Ammar since he was 16 when he became part of our youth ministry.” Meeks added of Campa-Najjar’s time in the Obama administration after college, “When he served in federal government, we talked regularly about life and the faith challenges of following Jesus in today’s world.”
Campa-Najjar, whose father was Palestinian and mother is Mexican, did change his name years ago from Ammar Yasser Najjar to Ammar Campa-Najjar, as The Washington Post reported, “in honor of his mother’s family, the Campas, who helped raise him.” But the idea that Campa-Najjar changed his name to hide his Arab identity is laughable. Who tries to hide their Arab identity by still using the very Arab first name “Ammar”?!
Campa-Najjar, whom I’ve interviewed several times on my SiriusXM radio show in the past, is proud of his Arab heritage. He is also proud of his Mexican heritage. But most of all he’s proud of being American and living in a nation that guarantees a person can run for the United States Congress regardless of ethnicity or religion.
But Hunter wasn’t done with trying to smear Campa-Najjar, who passed an FBI background check and gained a security clearance when he worked in the Obama administration. Hunter’s ad, which received four Pinocchios from Washington Post fact-checkers for being filled with lies, highlighted Campa-Najjar’s grandfather—who died 16 years before he was born—to link the Democratic candidate to terrorism.
His grandfather was involved in the 1972 Munich Olympic terrorist attack against Israeli athletes, one of the most heinous acts of terrorism of our time. Campa-Najjar has vocally denounced the past actions of his late relative he never met, stating that “my heritage bears a heartbreaking history” and adding, “I am committed to helping broker a lasting peace in my lifetime” between Israelis and Palestinians. And two local rabbis in the San Diego area publicly praised Campa-Najjar for his commitment to seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians when the story of his late grandfather first broke in February.
The why behind Hunter’s panicking is obvious. As Campa-Najjar explained to me, “It’s a sign that Hunter knows this race is close and our campaign is winning.” In his view, Hunter’s attempt “to take everyone down with him including his wife, and now me, is all part of Hunter’s desperate attempt to distract from his own crimes,” adding, “Hunter knows this ends with him going to prison, like Duke Cunningham and like Jesse Jackson Jr, because nobody is above the law.”
But Hunter’s vile hate-mongering is not limited to Muslims. He is also rabidly anti-LGBT, with comments like “the homosexual lobby isn’t simply pressing to have equal status in the military with people that are heterosexual… They would like a military takeover by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, and that’s what they’re going to keep pushing for until it happens.”
And last year Hunter proudly accept an award from the “Family Research Council” (FRC), an organization designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, headed by Tony Perkins. FRC and Perkins in the past have wrongly claimed that gay men are more likely than straight men to be pedophiles and have also spread lies about transgender Americans to stoke fears while supporting banning them from the U.S. military.
But Hunter, who was among the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy, was not done with hate-mongering. In 2016, he smeared the Hispanic American advocacy group La Raza Lawyers Association, saying it was just like a white supremacist group and claiming it wants to take California back form the United States, warning that “they’re gonna take it by force if they have to.” (Lawyers using force?)
You get the picture. Hunter is horrible, unless of course you hate Muslims, the LGBT community, Latinos, and American values of pluralism and tolerance. I wish I could confidently say that the voters of the Republican-leaning 50th Congressional District would reject Hunter’s bigotry and corruption. But I can’t, especially given Hunter is still up in recent polls. However, like Campa-Najjar, I truly hope the people of the district realize that they deserve better than a person like Hunter representing them in Congress—because they do.