Former Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy inappropriately injected anti-Semitic language into the Kentucky gubernatorial race on behalf of current Republican candidate David Williams. Williams is challenging current Governor Steve Beshear and his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, is Jewish. Kentucky.com reported that Forgy said:
Lexington attorney Larry Forgy, a Republican who lost the 1995 governor’s race against Democrat Paul Patton, said the only reason Beshear picked Abramson to be his running mate was ‘to attract New York and Hollywood Jewish money’ for the campaign.
‘There’s no other reason why to pick a big-city, liberal mayor to run for lieutenant governor in a rural, conservative state like this,’ Forgy said.
Former Kentucky State Treasurer and former NJDC Board Member Jonathan Miller, who is a native Kentuckian, wrote in The Huffington Post that Williams himself has a history of using this level of inappropriate innuendo in his campaigns. (In 2004, Williams used anti-gay language in order to support the candidacy of former Senator Jim Bunning.) Miller also wrote that the insinuations regarding Abramson’s religion do not stop with Forgy:
[G]ay-baiting won’t stick this time: The Governor’s been happily married for more than four decades.
Instead, at least one of Williams’ most high-profile supporters appears poised to try a much older strategy, one that’s been used successfully for centuries: highlighting the Jewish faith of Beshear’s running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.
The local press has been on guard since Beshear named Abramson to the ticket. Both major state dailies have speculated about the potential impact of Abramson’s Hebraic name and beliefs. Conservative columnist and Mitch McConnell biographer John David Dyche has repeated his mantra that the ‘verbose urban Jewish liberal’ won’t play well in rural Kentucky, lumping the former Mayor’s faith in with a series of other negative GOP code words. And Al Cross, the Director of the Institute for Rural Journalism, warned that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway’s now-infamous 2010 ‘Aqua Buddha’ ad—that challenged Senator Rand Paul’s faith - ‘opened a Pandora’s box…There are ways to remind voters of [Abramson’s faith]...ways more skillful than Conway adopted.’
One of Williams’ closest allies has made Conway’s jabs seem subtle by comparison. As veteran political reporter Jack Brammer reveals in today’s Lexington Herald-Leader, Larry Forgy, the 1995 Republican gubernatorial nominee, revived a pernicious stereotype by alleging that the extremely popular former mayor—with more than two decades of experience running Kentucky’s largest city—was chosen for the ticket only because of his connections to the Jewish financiers of Wall Street and Hollywood. The Williams campaign has made no comment about Forgy’s absurd and offensive remarks.
Forgy’s comment is deeply troubling and has absolutely no place in our political discourse. His statement should be condemned by all who believe that candidates should refrain from using religious innuendo, especially anti-Semitic canards.
Fortunately, according to Miller, the anti-Semitic attack on Abramson is unlikely to gain significant traction. Out of his own experiences Miller wrote:
Fortunately for our Commonwealth, this dog won’t hunt.
I’ll offer myself as Exhibit A: In 1999, I was elected Kentucky’s State Treasurer, and then reelected four years later. Sure, my surname is Miller; I’m told I don’t ‘look Jewish’; and my position was low-profile. But I’ve always worn my religion proudly on my sleeve, and even wrote a nationally-published book about my faith.
More significant than my example is my experience. During my 14 years in state politics and public service, I never encountered serious anti-Semitism. Just the opposite: When I spoke to rural crowds about the Talmud or my own spirituality, I was consistently met with warm feedback….
I’m not naive enough to claim that anti-Semitism has disappeared entirely, or that there aren’t some voters who might be manipulated by an anti-Jewish appeal. And unfortunately, hatred and intolerance continue to fester in many areas of the state, particularly when it comes to gays, Muslims and recent immigrants. But an anti-Semitic appeal, even targeted at rural, conservative areas, is much more likely to backfire.
Click here to read Miller’s full personal take on this incident.
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