The row between Josh Butner, a retired Navy SEAL, and former Obama administration official Ammar Campa-Najjar is centered around a website called DuncanButner.com.
The website tries to tie Butner to Hunter, the embattled Republican incumbent under federal investigation, the Huffington Post reported.
It also claims that Butner’s father, a retired Arizona judge, was linked to the Ku Klux Klan and that Butner was recruited by Republicans.
Butner said that Campa-Najjar’s campaign is behind the site and denounced it in a statement and on Twitter.
“I have spent my entire life defending our nation from enemies foreign and domestic,” he said. “It is disgusting to see that a political candidate would hide behind an anonymous website to smear and denigrate another candidate with deliberate falsehoods.”
(1/2) I have spent my entire life defending our nation from enemies foreign and domestic. It is disgusting to see that a political candidate would hide behind an anonymous website to smear and denigrate another candidate with deliberate falsehoods.— Josh Butner (@JoshButnerCA50) April 10, 2018
He also urged Campa-Najjar to “come clean” and explain his ties to the website.
“What did you know, when did you know it, and how deeply were you involved?,” Butner asked.
(2/2) I call on Ammar Campa - Najjar to come clean, tell the voters of California’s 50th Congressional District - What did you know, when did you know it, and how deeply were you involved?— Josh Butner (@JoshButnerCA50) April 10, 2018
Similarly, California Rep. Pete Aguilar, compared the site to Russian fake news smears and called for an independent investigation.
The baseless Russian-style attacks against combat veteran @JoshButnerCA50 has no place in our democracy. This is why I'm calling for an independent, forensic investigation into the campaign of @ACampaNajjar to determine whether he had any ties to this anonymous fake news site.— Pete Aguilar (@AguilarCampaign) April 11, 2018
Campa-Najjar’s campaign released a statement disavowing the website and said the person behind it should delete the claims.
“Our campaign is built on hope, not hate. We’ve overcome four baseless attacks from our opponent with a progressive platform & local support — there’s no need for baseless attacks," he said.
But Campa-Najjar also claimed that Butner’s campaign was behind the planting of a story that his grandfather was part of a terrorist organization responsible for killing Israelis at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
Campa-Najjar’s grandfather Yusuf al-Najjar died 16 years before his grandson was born in a missile strike launched by Israelis in response.
“Josh Butner has used the story to solicit donations,” he said. “We call on him to condemn the story, and go on the record denying his campaign’s involvement in planting the story.”
But Butner campaign manager Francis Nguyen criticized Campa-Najjar's response for trying to pivot from the accusations on the website and said he needed to "come clean" about how much he knew about the website.
"Only Ammar Campa-Najjar can respond to the facts that Ammar’s grandfather was the mastermind of one of the worst terrorist attacks since World War II — a story that was reported by reputable news outlets in the United States and abroad," Nguyen said.
But Campa Najjar said it was a smear for Butner's campaign to imply he was responsible for his grandfather's actions and accused Butner's campaign of trying to fundraise off the relationship.
"The campaign has used this to solicit funds from the Jewish community," Campa-Najjar said in an interview.
But Campa-Najjar pointed out had support of the Jewish community in the San Diego area and both he and Butner had been endorsed by J Street, an organization that supports peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Campa-Najjar also said Butner's campaign should be asked if it tried to to plant the story in an Israeli newspaper about his grandfather during ahead of the state party convention where Campa-Najjar won the support.
"That means he's using the same kind of fear mognering tactics and divisive tactics that our party has been working against since [President Donald] Trump's election," he said.
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