With less than a week to go before the 2018 midterm elections, the race between Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and his 25th Congressional District challenger, Katie Hill, has once again made national news.
A TV ad for Knight’s re-election campaign recently featured a veteran praising the Republican congressman for helping him receive a double-lung transplant.
It was taken down Thursday, after the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday that the featured veteran, David Brayton, had posted anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic comments on social media, leading Facebook to suspend his account three times for hate speech. The veteran also disparaged journalists and former President Barack Obama multiple times, according to his now-defunct Facebook page.
On Thursday, after the reports of Brayton’s disparaging comments from the past few years arose on Wednesday, local Jewish leaders in the Santa Clarita community contacted Knight to condemn Brayton’s hate speech.
Knight said he himself took down the advertisement from his website and social media on Thursday, stating that he condemned the words of Brayton and was not aware of Brayton’s background of making such sentiments.
“If someone said something that was against something I believed, then I can then say, ‘OK, I condemn these words, this behavior,’” Knight said. “And I can also pull down content that I have used in campaign because of those statements, and I think that’s fair.
“The initial issue was helping someone who needed help and getting it done,” he continued. “Mr. Brayton came to us independently with his lung-transplants issues, and we don’t ask people your party or go on their Facebook page when we decide to help people.”
Knight said that, had he known about Brayton’s comments, he would not have chosen to feature him in the advertisement.
“If someone makes horrible comments and it’s out there in the public against groups of people, then I don’t think that is something that fits what I believe, and they’re horrible statements,” he said. “It doesn’t take away from the fact that we were able to help, but if we had come across these statements, we would not have put him in.”
Rabbi Mark Blazer of Santa Clarita said he was “livid” when he heard of Brayton’s comments and that the ad was running. He said he personally texted the representative, a friend of his, and that Knight promised to “deal with it promptly.”
“I have every confidence he is dealing with this issue in a respectful and sensitive way,” Blazer said. “The congressman, when made aware of the statements, took it down and said to me that he condemns any form of racism and anti-Semitism. And as someone who knows him, I know that to be the case.
“But I don’t want Steve Knight to just respond,” he said. “I want everyone in our community to respond to hatred with a very strong statement: ‘not in our town.’ Whether it comes from your next-door neighbor or a politician, there is no place in our town for hate.”
Blazer said he was unsure if Knight had planned to take down the advertisement before his call, but that he knew many others in the Jewish community were incensed at the news of Brayton’s sentiments and had been calling the congressman.
While he said Knight understood the severity of the issue, Blazer did not believe members of his staff did.
“That is a problem that somebody on his staff didn’t understand the seriousness of featuring that man in this campaign,” Blazer said. “They made a big mistake.”