A Republican contender for U.S. Senate repeatedly made comments insinuating some Republicans had a dual loyalty to Israel because of the “very strong American Jewish lobby,” CNN reported Friday.
The candidate, former talk show host and recent one-term congressman Jason Lewis, said in a 2013 show, “You’ve got a number of dual citizens, by the way, citizens of Israel and citizens of the United States serving in government.” He named John Bolton, who’s not actually a dual citizen.
“During the Bush years,” he said, “there were a number of dual citizens, citizens of Israel, citizens of America who were making policy.” Neoconservatives, he added later, “view Israel as a 51st state.”
The comments came during then-Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s 2013 confirmation battle. Hagel came under criticism for his past use of the term “Jewish lobby.” CNN pulled clips from Lewis’ radio show in which the then-commentator defended Hagel somewhat.
“I’m not one of those ‘Jewish banker conspiracy’ people,” Lewis said. “I don’t think that the Jewish lobby, the Israeli lobby, controls America because there are plenty of opponents. I do believe, as I said, they are controlling the Republican party.”
One of the reasons for America’s close relationship with Israel, he said, was “AIPAC and a very, very strong American Jewish lobby.”
He added separately: “I think Lindsey Graham and John McCain and every Republican, including Ted Cruz, know exactly how much money they will lose if they support Chuck Hagel from AIPAC or Jewish Americans or Sheldon Adelson for that matter.”
Lewis, CNN noted, has joined many Republicans in criticizing fellow Minnesotan Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for comments some deemed anti-Semitic — Lewis called Omar’s comments “anti-Semitic rants” in an interview earlier this month. Responding to CNN’s reporting, the network said, Lewis pivoted to attacking Omar’s “genuinely anti-Israel views.”
Omar apologized after commenting that politicians’ support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” though she asserted that she was referring to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, not Jews in general.
Lewis did not apologize in a comment to CNN, instead saying that his “25-year career as a political commentator […] naturally meant asking rhetorical questions, challenging audiences, playing devil’s advocate and seeing both sides of every issue.”
In reality, the self-proclaimed “largest pro-Israel grassroots organization in the United States” isn’t Jewish, but rather the enormously influential group Christians United for Israel.
That’s not all that’s landed Lewis the news. In 2018, during his failed congressional reelection bid, he earned some viral mockery after posting a video of himself canvassing for reelection — only for viral sleuths to point out that the video wasn’t even filmed in his congressional district.