(April 23, 2020 / JNS) A number of pro-Israel groups lately have targeted Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) over the libertarian’s voting record in Congress on issues related to the U.S.-Israel relationship and the Jewish community in recent weeks. Yet their quick endorsement of his Republican primary opponent, Todd McMurtry, has also led to significant controversy and a pullback of their support after past racist remarks by the candidate emerged.
Late last month, Massie drew headlines when he sought to delay what would eventually be the passage of an unprecedented spending bill to provide $2.1 trillion in assistance to Americans and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. While that issue was not directly related to Israel, it appeared to act as the straw that broke the camel’s back for many conservative pro-Israel groups who have long been concerned over Massie’s voting record opposing pro-Israel initiatives in the House.
In a statement on April 1, CUFI Action Fund, the political arm of Christians United for Israel, said that “if you’re a supporter of Israel, and if you want to combat anti-Semitism and keep enemies like Turkey and Iran at bay, then Representative Massie is not representing your views.”
“In a nutshell, as CUFI and [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump have sought to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, Rep. Massie has voted to undermine it,” said the CUFI Action Fund.
As a politician who has long-championed a strict interpretation of the Constitution and a reduction in the size of the federal government, Massie, 49, has a history of being the lone Republican vote against issues that he deems as outside the powers of Congress. This has extended into votes on support for Israel, which is a core issue for the Republican Party.
Massie was only Republican vote against the overwhelmingly passed July 2019 resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives condemning the anti-Israel BDS movement; voting against a now-law that designated Israel as a “strategic partner” of the United States; voting “present” on a bill to “approve” the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which all Republicans opposed; consistently voting against U.S. assistance to Israel; voting against sanctions on Iran, North Korea, Russia and Turkey; and voting against the Never Again Education Act, a bill that passed the House in January that seeks to expand Holocaust education in the United States.
As a result of Massie’s record, a few pro-Israel groups went further and endorsed his Republican primary opponent Todd McMurtry.
“In January, we announced that we would not support Congressman Thomas Massie after he voted against the Never Again Education Act that expanded the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s education program,” said Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director Matt Brooks in a statement, adding that “after Rep. Massie recklessly decided to hold up the stimulus bill designed to help Americans who are struggling because of the coronavirus, the RJC PAC has decided to endorse and fundraise for his GOP primary opponent, Todd McMurtry, and the RJC will be activating its nationwide team of volunteers to contact voters in the 4th Congressional District of Kentucky to explain why it is so important to support McMurtry.”
Brooks said that McMurtry is “a terrific candidate,” and that “unlike Massie, McMurtry supports Israel, is committed to the president’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran, wants to help President Trump strengthen our military and give our troops the pay raises they deserve, and strongly opposes the anti-Semitic BDS movement.”
Another group, Pro-Israel America, announced on April 2 that it would also support McMurtry as the organization’s first endorsement of a non-incumbent challenger.
“Republicans and Democrats alike have come together to rage at Thom[as] Massie over his recent efforts to delay and derail the economic recovery bill,” said Pro-Israel America executive director Jeff Mendelsohn. “What they might not know is that he’s got one of the worst records in Congress when it comes to supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Racist remarks by McMurtry come to light
However, over the weekend, RJC PAC and Pro-Israel America withdrew their endorsements of McMurtry after The New York Times reported past bigoted remarks he made.
For example, in a now-deleted tweet, McMurtry called for the “need to push back against demonization of white people,” adding that “we should not be willing scapegoats for someone else’s agenda.”
In another tweet, this one still online, he lamented being at the “airport, where some cartel-looking dude is playing a video of some wild Mexican birthday party at full volume. This is why we should question unlimited immigration. We just cannot integrate so many people. Also, cartels are everywhere.”
Beyond amazing. At airport, where some cartel-looking dude is playing a video of some wild Mexican birthday party at full volume. This is why we should question unlimited immigration. We just cannot integrate so many people. Also, cartels are everywhere.
— Todd V. McMurtry (@ToddMcMurtry) November 23, 2019
“The RJC has consistently spoken out against hate, bigotry & racism. As a result of troubling comments that have come to light by congressional candidate Todd McMurtry which don’t share our values or the values of the GOP, we are asking for a refund & withdrawing our PAC support,” tweeted RJC on Saturday.
The RJC has consistently spoken out against hate, bigotry & racism. As a result of troubling comments that have come to light by congressional candidate Todd McMurtry which don’t share our values or the values of the GOP, we are asking for a refund & withdrawing our PAC support.
— RJC (@RJC) April 18, 2020
“Pro-Israel America condemns racism and bigotry of any form. We are concerned by Todd McMurtry’s statements that have come forward this week, as these don’t reflect our values. We are withdrawing our endorsement and requesting reimbursement for contributions from our PAC,” tweeted the organization on Sunday. “Pro-Israel America is committed to helping elect pro-Israel candidates to Congress and defeating anti-Israel candidates. Rep. Tom Massie has one of the worst records on the U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress.”
The deadline to file to run in Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District as a Democrat or Republican has passed.
Massie’s voting record ‘respects the constitution’
Cliff Maloney Jr., president of Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian group, told JNS that Massie’s “voting record is impeccable for Americans who want a public servant that respects the Constitution, civil liberties, fiscal responsibility, and a foreign policy of peace.”
As a libertarian, Massie holds an isolationist foreign-policy point of view, including consistently voting against sanctions, and has consistently voted against government spending.
Massie’s congressional office referred JNS to his campaign, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Regarding voting “present” on a bill to “approve” the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Massie said: “Pursuant to the Constitution, treaties must be approved by a ‘2/3 concurrence’ of the Senate. As a member of the House of Representatives, I have no authority to approve a treaty.”
The nuclear deal was not submitted to the Senate as a treaty; rather, it was done through executive action.
On voting against the House anti-BDS resolution, Massie said:
I voted against H. Res. 246 because it calls for the full implementation of a bill I voted against back in 2014. That 2014 bill spends taxpayer dollars on “green” energy subsidies for another country, despite the fact that we face a debt crisis of over $22 trillion in the U.S.
In addition, H. Res. 246 calls for Israel to implement a so-called “two-state solution.” Rather than dictate to Israel what the U.S. believes is best for Israel, Congress should instead refrain from interfering with Israel’s own decisions regarding its foreign and domestic policy.
I also do not support federal efforts to condemn any type of private boycott, regardless of whether or not a boycott is based upon bad motives. These are matters that Congress should properly leave to the States and to the people to decide.
On voting against the Never Again Education Act, Massie previously told JNS, “The bill authorizes $10 million in spending for the Department of Education, a department that I’ve introduced legislation to eliminate [H.R. 899]. Furthermore, the bill directs money to develop content for the website of the privately funded Holocaust museum. The surest way to ruin a private website is to let the federal government work on it.”
The House legislation, however, would have that funding go towards to the Holocaust Education Assistance Program Fund, administered by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s governing body, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
In an interview with Jewish Insider, McMurtry labeled his primary incumbent as “the only anti-Israel member of the House GOP caucus” and the congressman’s vote against the anti-BDS resolution “pretty crazy” and “odd” and that, if he has been in the House, “would have voted “in favor of a resolution opposing and condemning the BDS movement” and a resolution reaffirming U.S. support for the two-state solution.
“I think what would be great if I got elected, especially for Israel, is that I’ve negotiated so many deals among conflicted parties,” said McMurtry, citing his mediation background. “I have handled cases as an attorney where I’ve been an advocate and then a negotiator. So I do believe that I will be a very effective voice for Israel because of those skill sets. And that would include working with the Democrats to find compromise and mutuality on important issues.”
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