On the day of a Congressional District 8 debate at the Jewish Community Center, Republican Jesse Kelly is the subject of a television news report about how he was endorsed by ALIPAC, a group that has been linked anti-Semitic groups, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
When Kelly, who is facing Democrat Ron Barber in the June 12 special election to complete Gabrielle Giffords' congressional term, was questioned about the 2010 endorsement by KGUN-9's Jennifer Waddell, Kelly spokesman John Ellinwood stopped the interview and said the question was illegitimate:
Ellinwood, who was sitting to the side off camera, interrupted Waddell and announced that he was stopping the interview because of a question Waddell had just asked. That question, which came from a KGUN9 viewer, sought an explanation for an endorsement Kelly had accepted from a controversial anti-immigration group. Ellinwood objected to viewer's use of the word "recent" to describe Kelly's acceptance — Ellinwood strenuously insisted that the word did not fairly describe something that had happened in 2010. But even though Waddell immediately offered to correct the viewer's wording, Ellinwood continued pressing his objections.
Kelly sat politely listening. He held his hand up, twice, to try to get Ellinwood to stand down, which Ellinwood eventually did.
However, Ellinwood continued his verbal assault in the hallway afterwards, using some choice terms to describe the question and attacking Waddell's professionalism for asking it.
After KGUN's story about Ellinwood's blowup was posted online, Ellinwood called the station and cancelled an interview that was scheduled for today.
It's the latest example of Kelly's fear of tough questions from the media. Kelly has refused to sit down for interviews with the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Weekly.
What's the big deal about ALIPAC? The group is an anti-immigration political action committee that has been criticized in the past by the Anti-Defamation League for links to anti-Semitic groups, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Kelly signed a pledge to ALIPAC to his 2010 campaign in order to receive the organization's endorsement. Just days ago, ALIPAC endorsed Kelly in the 2012 campaign:
Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is renewing endorsements for 14 federal candidates running in 2012 who were previously endorsed in 2010. These candidates have strong stances in favor of enforcing America's existing border and immigration laws instead of any form of Amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Each candidate completed ALIPAC's candidate survey and pledge in 2010 indicating their opposition to illegal immigration and Amnesty for illegals. These candidates have now been added to ALIPAC's 2012 endorsed candidates found at http://www.alipac.us/campaign/
In 2010, U.S. Sen. John McCain criticized his GOP opponent, J.D. Hayworth, for accepting ALIPAC's endorsement, saying that ALIPAC was among "extreme groups that condone racism," according to Politico:
It's the latest iteration of one of McCain's most consistent messages: that Hayworth, a vocal immigration hawk, holds views that go beyond the conservative mainstream and into the fringe. Earlier this year, McCain's camp blasted Hayworth for comments that appeared to question President Obama's citizenship, and for a web ad that showed an image of McCain in "Avatar"-like face paint that the senator's supporters called offensive.
"Let's be clear: Congressman [J.D.] Hayworth's continued flirtation with extreme groups that condone racism only opens the door for liberals to falsely paint all opponents of illegal immigration as bigots. Congressman Hayworth should immediately disavow this group’s support and commit to never again associating himself with groups that accept this kind of hateful and counterproductive rhetoric," McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said in a statement Friday.
Kelly and Barber will face off in a live debate at 7 p.m. tonight at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.