COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel has sided on social media with the right-wing personality behind the online conspiracy theory dubbed "pizzagate" over an anti-hate group seeking to call out the man's behavior.
Mandel, the Ohio state treasurer seeking an election rematch against Democrat Sherrod Brown, retweeted a post Thursday by attorney and author Mike Cernovich that accused the Anti-Defamation League of "inciting terrorism."
Cernovich's post came after a new league report identified him as part of the "alt-lite" movement. The group defines such activists as rejecting overtly white supremacist ideology but embracing misogyny and xenophobia.
Mandel backed Cernovich and another man, Jack Posobiec, against the league's labeling. Posobiec was identified in the report as "alt-lite."
"Sad to see (the league) become a partisan witchhunt group targeting people for political beliefs," Mandel posted.
The tweet drew immediate pushback on Twitter, calling Mandel "disgusting" and accusing him of being hateful, misogynistic and racist.
Besides his involvement with "pizzagate," an unfounded conspiracy theory that claims Democrats harbor child sex slaves at a pizza restaurant, Cernovich has claimed that date rape doesn't exist and "diversity is code for white genocide."
Posobiec is credited with planting a "Rape Melania" sign at an anti-Trump rally to discredit protesters. Melania is the first name of President Donald Trump's wife. Posobiec also was among protesters who rushed the stage at the New York Public Theater's recent Trump-inspired staging of "Julius Caesar."
The league stood by its decision to identify both men as major figures in the burgeoning "alt-lite" movement, which bears similarities but is less staunch than what's called "alt-right," or alternative right.
"For more than a century, ADL has been guided by its mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and fight for equal justice for all — not by politics," it said in a statement. "We call out those who preach anti-Semitism and bigotry regardless of their background, party, or standing."
Mandel, who is Jewish, stood by his position Friday.
"As the grandson of Holocaust survivors and as a Marine who defended our freedom, Treasurer Mandel believes the ADL is dead wrong for creating hit lists on American citizens," said campaign spokeswoman Erica Nurnberg. "Of all organizations, the ADL should know that making target lists of people based on their political beliefs is a dangerous practice and slippery slope."
Posobiec posted a video on Twitter of himself responding to the league report in front of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland. In an apparent reference to the Holocaust, he said, "It would be wise of ADL to remember the history of what happened the last time people started going around making lists of undesirables."
The league called the concentration camp memorial "hallowed ground" and its use in such a video "offensive and twisted."
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