Arab Americans are outraged at a campaign brochure mailed to voters in California's 44th Congressional District by the leading Republican House candidate, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, alleging that Joe Ghougassian, his major GOP rival in Tuesday's primary, is "bankrolled by Arab oil interests." Ghougassian called the brochure "racist and un-American" and demanded an apology.
The leaflet contains sketches of a Saudi Arabian prince and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. "Remember the long lines at gas stations following the Arab embargo of 1973? We don't need a congressman bought and paid for by these special interests. DO WE?" the flier says.
Using a tactic reminiscent of Illinois Democratic Rep. Gus Savage's public reading of the names of Jewish contributors to his primary opponent's campaign, the Cunningham flier lists people with Arabic last names as contributors to Ghougassian along with the National Association of Arab Americans.
"It's garbage. It is racism, pure and simple," said Ghougassian, a former U.S. ambassador to Qatar who was born in Egypt and is of Armenian descent. He added that all of the individuals listed by Cunningham are U.S. citizens.
One California Republican said that Cunningham, a former Navy fighter pilot rumored to be the model for the Tom Cruise character in the movie "Top Gun," is trying to emphasize his own patriotism.
Nevertheless, television commentators and editorial writers in the district have blasted Cunningham's tactics.
George R. Salem, chairman of the Arab American Leadership Council, wrote National Republican Congressional Committee Co-Chairman Edward J. Rollins urging Rollins to condemn "this racist attack." But Rollins said yesterday it is not his "job to play traffic cop in a Republican primary."
The winner of the primary will face the victor of the Democratic primary contest between Rep. Jim Bates and Byron Georgiou.