Gabriela Saucedo Mercer (R), who is challenging Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D) in Arizona's new 3rd district, has come under fire for saying that Middle Easterners are not wanted in America and attempting to use her connection to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to deflect the controversy.
On Monday evening, Mercer and Issa attended a Tucson, Ariz., dinner hosted by the Brian Terry Foundation, named for the Border Patrol agent who was killed near the Arizona-Mexico border in December 2010. As chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa has been investigating the events surrounding Terry's death. Mercer posted a photo of herself with Issa on her Facebook page and, when a commenter noted Issa’s Lebanese heritage, Mercer defended the photo by noting that Issa does not have ties to terrorist organizations.
“I am fully aware that California Representative Darrell Issa is and AMERICAN of Lebanese descent who LOVES the United States of America. It was on honor for me to have shaken his hand and to have met his beautiful wife at the Brian Terry Foundation dinner,” reads her response on the page. “FYI Rep. Issa does not have ties to ANY terrorist organizations nor does he engage in destructive behavior against US citizens. Rep. Issa is leading the investigation on the botched Fast & Furious gun running scandal that Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to wiggle out of. As a matter of fact this man is one of my heroes! Viva Darrell Issa and GodBless the USA!”
The comments come after Mercer said, in a video interview with the Western Free Press, an Arizona-based online newspaper, that authorities caught more than 25,000 non-Mexican illegal immigrants last year.
"That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners. If you know Middle Easterners, they look Mexican or like a lot of people in South America, dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes, and they mix in," she said, according to the Tucson-based Arizona Daily Star. "And those people, their only goal in life is to cause harm to the United States, so why do we want them here, either legally or illegally?"
Mercer has claimed that her comments about Middle Easterners were taken out of context. But when asked today about her photo with Issa, Grijalva suggested that Mercer was using the lawmaker.
“I think she’s looking for cover, and you have a high-profile Middle Easterner Congressman who has a high profile nationally based on the committee he runs and suddenly they’re chummy,” Grijalva said. “I would suggest that Mr. Issa probably needs to examine that because by him taking a picture and it being posted, it validates or takes her off the hook on that subject and that’s a mistake.”
The Mercer campaign dismissed the charge.
“The narrative that Grijalva is trying to portray is not an accurate one,” said Mercer spokeswoman Rebecca Keating. “She was at an occasion showing respect to a fallen Border Patrol agent and had a lot of pictures taken with a lot of people. ... [Issa is] a great American that chose to come and honor the fallen soldier as well."
Issa’s spokesman did not return a request for comment. There is no evidence to indicate whether the Congressman knew who Mercer was before taking the photo.
Roll Call rates this race as Safe Democratic.