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Fiorina campaign accuses Campbell camp of faking ‘anti-Semite’ controversy

February 25, 2010 |  5:00 pm

Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's campaign pushed back Thursday afternoon at allegations in today's Times that her campaign manager called rival Tom Campbell an "anti-Semite," and said Campbell’s campaign is creating controversy to deflect questions that are being raised about the former congressman’s track record on Israel.

“I never said that about Tom Campbell, nor do I believe that about Tom Campbell,” campaign manager Marty Wilson said in a conference call with reporters. “What’s particularly interesting to me is that they choose to make these allegations about what I said in an effort to kind of obscure the fact that he’s got a terrible record on Israel.”

Campbell’s campaign called on Fiorina to repudiate Wilson’s alleged remark.

"If Carly Fiorina is not willing to publicly disassociate herself from these charges of 'anti-Semitism,' it is reasonable for voters to question her qualifications to even participate in this serious debate about the issues facing our country,” Campbell spokesman James Fisfis said in a written statement. “Sadly, nothing in the course or demeanor of her campaign so far suggests that she is ready to lead even a schoolyard debate on issues, much less run a serious campaign for the U.S. Senate."

Fiorina was in Washington D.C. and unavailable for comment, her spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said.

The former Hewlett-Packard chief is the guest of honor at a fundraiser this evening hosted by Republican senators including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and lobbyists such as Charlie Black.

The controversy was sparked when former California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson told The Times that Wilson referred to Campbell as an “anti-Semite” when McPherson called him in mid-January and announced his plan to endorse Campbell. Wilson recalled the conversation, but said the topic of Israel never came up.

Wilson also reiterated his concerns about Campbell, including two efforts to trim economic aid to Israel in the late 1990s while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He also sought to tie Campbell to three individuals who donated to his 2000 Senate campaign who pleaded guilty to or were accused of crimes years later, and a fourth donor who made comments supportive of Hamas.

“Tom Campbell has a record that is decidedly anti-Israel and has some very questionable associations,” Wilson said. “The voters of California will decide if he is sympathetic to terrorists.”

The most notable donor is Sami Al-Arian, who received Campbell’s support when the University of South Florida fired him for expressing unpopular views. Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist group.

Campbell has said he was unaware of Al-Arian’s misdeeds at the time of his contact with him, and would not have written a letter in support of him had he known. Critics note that there was widespread media coverage in South Florida of Al-Arian’s links with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“Should Campbell have known that? That’s a valid question,” Wilson said, “but the fact of the matter is that there’s a definite pattern here with Tom Campbell, in terms of the people he has taken money from and in terms of the people supporting him.”

The other donors Wilson noted are Abdurahman Alamoudi, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to illegal financial dealing with Libya and other charges, Muthanna Al-Hanooti, who was arrested in 2008 for spying for Saddam Hussein and other charges, and Nihad Awad, who failed to condemn Hamas four weeks after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly bus bombing.

-- Seema Mehta