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Adviser to GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart used expletive to describe majority-black cities

Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart did not say Monday whether he would cut ties with adviser Rick Shaftan. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

A controversial campaign consultant working for Virginia GOP Senate candidate Corey A. Stewart faced fresh scrutiny Monday after several social media posts showed him calling majority-black cities “s---holes,” while at least one more post bemoaned the South’s loss of the Civil War.

Rick Shaftan, who is advising Stewart in his bid to unseat Sen. Tim Kaine (D) in November, lashed out on Twitter earlier this year against the city of Baltimore for replacing a Confederate statue with a memorial to Harriet Tubman, a key figure in the abolitionist movement to end slavery.

“The word #S---hole is an appropriate one to describe this particular s---hole,” Shaftan tweeted in January, above a link to an article about the Tubman memorial, repeating the derogatory term used by President Trump to describe Haiti and countries in Africa.

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Previously, Shaftan — a veteran adviser who worked in New Jersey before moving his base to North Carolina — similarly trashed New Orleans and Ferguson, Mo.

“The message out of Ferguson and Baltimore is a simple one: DON’T OPEN A BUSINESS IN A BLACK NEIGHBORHOOD!” Shaftan tweeted in 2015, following protests in those cities related to the deaths of young black men.

The social media posts, first highlighted Monday by the Daily Beast, are another headache for Stewart’s campaign over ties to people who have promoted racist policies or messages.

In June, Stewart faced a backlash over a video made in January 2017 in which he appeared with Paul Nehlen, a self-described “pro-white” candidate running for Congress in Wisconsin, and called him “one of my personal heroes.”

Last year, Stewart appeared at a news conference with “Unite the Right” rally organizer Jason Kessler a few days before the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville led to the death of a 32-year-old woman.

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Stewart — who drew support from white nationalists while campaigning to preserve Confederate monuments in Virginia during last year’s gubernatorial primary election — later disavowed both men, saying he did not know about their “disgusting” beliefs before associating with them.

A part-time staffer for Stewart, Brian Landrum, was recently included in a closed group on Facebook used by an organization led by Kessler, who is planning another rally in Washington next month. Landrum said he was included in the group without his knowledge, although he left a comment on the page.

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Stewart, the chairman of Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors — who says he doesn’t hold racist beliefs — declined Monday to say whether he would sever ties with Shaftan.

Instead, he said media outlets are engaging in a double standard in the Senate race. Stewart argued that reporters have not similarly questioned Kaine over his connection to Leslie Cockburn, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia whom Republicans have called anti-Semitic because of a 1991 book she co-wrote that was highly critical of U.S.-Israeli covert operations.

Kaine said during a debate between the two candidates this month that he does not agree with all of Cockburn’s views on foreign policy but does not consider them anti-Semitic.

Shaftan did not respond to questions Monday after returning an initial phone message via email to ask about the nature of the call.

Earlier Monday, he responded on Facebook to the Daily Beast article by saying, “I must have said something worse than that in all these years!”

He then noted that he had changed his profile picture to one of him as a young man standing next to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the federal holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Shaftan’s political consulting firm, Atlantic Media & Research, was paid $88,600 by the Stewart campaign in recent months to buy advertising space, according to Stewart’s most recent campaign filing. Shaftan also worked on Stewart’s failed 2017 bid for the GOP nomination for governor.

Shaftan has helped shape Stewart’s campaign against Kaine with an abrasive approach, embodied in a tweet from March proclaiming, “In politics, the minute you take your foot off their neck is the minute you lose.”

Earlier this year, while working for conservative Shak Hill’s unsuccessful primary challenge to Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Shaftan created an online ad that labeled her “Crazy Barbara” while accusing her of a launching a “sleazy attack” on Hill.

Last year, Shaftan, a native of New York City, shared a picture of the Confederate flag that included the caption: “If The South Would Have Won, We Would Have Had It Made.”

In 2015, he referred to then-first lady Michelle Obama as “a racist pig” in a tweet that his client in New Jersey, North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco (D), forced him to remove.

In 2013, another client — Republican Steve Lonegan — fired Shaftan after he implied that Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was gay.

Kaine’s campaign felt little need to respond to Shaftan’s online comments Monday.

“They’re disgusting,” Ian Sams, the campaign’s top spokesman, said in a short statement.