An apparent anti-Semitic and racist flier that featured manipulated images of two African-American county executives was distributed Monday evening at a Prince George’s County budget hearing.
The flier, titled “From Baltimore to Jerusalem It’s the Same Game,” invokes several anti-Semitic tropes denigrating U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-District 8), who is not Jewish, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who is. In bold typeface, the opening statement reads: “In 10 years, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin sent $1.2 billion of Maryland federal taxpayer money to the apartheid state of Israel to build schools, roads and other infrastructure while saying Maryland doesn’t have the money to help develop our communities.”
On the left side of the page, Cardin, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-District 5) and Van Hollen are depicted standing over Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, both African-Americans, whose heads were digitally placed on the bodies of dogs.
A speech bubble emerges from Van Hollen’s image, saying, “I thought they’d want millions in school funding for their loyalty, but they sold out their community and Donna Edwards for a few doggy treats.” The accompanying text accuses Baker and Leggett of selling out fellow African-Americans in order “to further their interests.”
Edwards, an African-American congresswoman from Prince George’s County representing the 4th congressional district, is running against Van Hollen for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Mikulski.
A speech bubble emerging from Leggett says, “I’d trust these guys over Donna Edwards any day. Hey Baker: Where did you get that ‘secret’ $500K for your campaign? I want some ‘doggy-treats’ too! After all the barking I did for you to get the MGM casino — you owe me dawg.”
The accompanying text goes on for several paragraphs playing on common anti-Semitic themes, such as the “Israel lobby” financing Van Hollen’s campaign “to ensure blacks don’t get political power in the Senate.”
On the bottom half of the page, the flier links Israel to cases of police brutality in the United States, relates recent Ethiopian-Israeli protests in Tel Aviv to last week’s protests in Baltimore and repeats discredited reports that Ethiopian Jews are being injected with birth control.
While it remains to be seen who was behind the fliers’ production and distribution, condemnation from the Jewish community and from Edwards was swift. Calls to Baker and Leggett were unanswered as of press time.
“This is … vile anti-Semitism. It’s grotesque, it’s vulgar, it has no place in politics [and] in American political discourse,” said Ronald Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “It’s an attempt to inject race into a contest where the voters will make a decision.”
Halber added that this is not the first time anti-Semitism has been brought into campaign season. When Cardin ran successfully against former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a Steele supporter sent out a flier that read in part, “Ben Cardin Promises to Attack Jesus Christ, Pastors, Churches and Christians and to Take Away Blacks’ Freedom If He Is Elected.”
Edwards was incensed by a message that purported to support her candidacy.
“I am outraged and disgusted by the anti-Semitic hate speech in this flier,” she said. “It has no business in our discourse, let alone American politics.”
Van Hollen’s campaign chair, Yvette Lewis, called the flier “disgusting.”
“I know our voters won’t stand for it,” said Lewis. “This kind of hate has no place in the debate about the future of our state and our country.”