In Twitter controversy, Portman sticks by Mandel – News – The Columbus Dispatch


Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, doesn’t appear to agree with Josh Mandel’s recent tweet, but he’s standing by the state treasurer anyway.

Mandel, who is running to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, on Thursday sparked a flurry on social media with a single tweet. Mandel said he would “stand by” a man with a history of extreme statements, including that date rape doesn’t exist and “diversity is a code for white genocide.”

He was defending Mike Cernovich, who describes himself as “national security reporter, documentary filmmaker, author.” But the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil-rights organization, in a recent report described him as part of the “Alt Lite” movement — right-wing nationalists who avoid explicitly white-supremacist jargon.

Mandel tweeted “Sad to see @ADL_National become a partisan witchhunt group targeting people for political beliefs. I stand with @Cernovich & @JackPosobiec.”

 Sad to see @ADL_National become a partisan witchhunt group targeting people for political beliefs. I stand with @Cernovich & @JackPosobiec https://t.co/N3nC78t4CS

— Josh Mandel (@JoshMandelOhio) July 20, 2017

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Mandel’s campaign said he didn’t agree with Cernovich’s statements regarding date rape and “white genocide,” but Mandel’s tweet didn’t mention that. A Mandel spokeswoman said he sent the tweet because “the ADL is dead wrong for creating hit lists on American citizens.”

The campaign didn’t respond when asked how the ADL report is a “hit list.”

In a video posted to Twitter, Cernovich took note of the flap. He said he never had heard of Mandel, but, “God bless you, Josh Mandel … you took a big, big risk.” His tweet bore the hashtag “#StandWithJosh.”

“Josh Mandel won the support of our movement today,” Cernovich said, calling on his supporters in Ohio to help Mandel’s campaign.”

The tweet was covered in state, national and international media. Brown’s campaign on Friday put out a fundraising message based on it.

“Josh Mandel is aligning himself with racist, misogynistic members of the extreme right wing,” the message said. “They don’t represent Ohio values. They don’t reflect Ohio views. Mandel has no business representing Ohio families in the Senate. But right now, he’s ahead in two separate polls.”

The tweet also prompted hundreds of comments on Twitter and the Dispatch Facebook page. Among the tweets was this one to Portman from Isaac Lampner: “Please consider revoking your endorsement of @JoshMandelOhio and encouraging a better candidate to run.”

 Please consider revoking your endorsement of @JoshMandelOhio and encouraging a better candidate to run.

— Isaac Lampner (@Lamp1952) July 21, 2017

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Despite the kerfuffle, Portman will stand behind his endorsement of Mandel, Portman’s communications director, Kevin Smith, said in an email. But that doesn’t mean that Ohio’s senior senator was entirely pleased with Mandel’s tweet.

“Rob has said many times that bigotry, hate, and anti-Semitism have no place in our society, but beyond that we’re not going to comment,” Smith said.

Join the conversation at Facebook.com/dispatchpolitics and connect with us on Twitter @OhioPoliticsNow

A spokesman for Mandel’s Republican primary challenger, Cleveland banker Mike Gibbons, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Mandel is no stranger to criticism of messaging with religious overtones. He faced backlash in 2010 for a television ad that associated his opponent, state Treasurer Kevin Boyce, with a mosque, and a blog that said a top Boyce assistant was awarding contracts to “Islamic extremist friends.”

Mandel defeated Boyce.

mschladen@dispatch.com

@martyschladen

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