Virginia GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart attacked Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed, who is Muslim, as an “ISIS commie” in a since-deleted tweet.
“Michigan almost elected a far left ISIS commie,” Stewart wrote Wednesday, the day after El-Sayed’s defeat in the state’s Democratic primary.
“This guy wants to abolish ICE & won 300,000 votes. Dangerous stuff. Don’t let wimpy @timkaine bring this dangerous, far left communism to VA,” Stewart continued, referring to his Virginia Democratic opponent, Tim Kaine.
El-Sayed, Detroit’s former health director, won about 30 percent of the vote in Michigan’s three-way Democratic gubernatorial primary, behind Gretchen Whitmer, who garnered 52 percent.
“Shawarma trucks on every corner. And Medicare for All,” El-Sayed tweeted in response to Stewart’s provocation.
El-Sayed, a progressive favorite endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and New York congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, campaigned on universal Medicare, the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and raising the minimum wage. If elected, El-Sayed would have been the first Muslim governor in the U.S.
Stewart denied that he posted the tweet himself and said he removed it when he saw it.
“One of my vendors put out a tweet last night that attempted to link a Michigan gubernatorial candidate to ISIS, because he apparently received support from purported extremists,” Stewart said in a statement. “I don’t believe in guilt by association ― I have been the target of very similar smears, and I don’t believe in using such tactics against others.”
Stewart’s Virginia campaign has been dogged by controversy. He is a neo-Confederate who says the Confederacy was on the correct side of history, defends Confederate monuments and has alleged ties to white nationalists.
Kaine leads Stewart by 23 percentage points, according to a Thursday poll from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
Scott Simpson, public advocacy director for Muslim Advocates, called the language in Stewart’s tweet “inexcusable and unacceptable.”
“It gives license to those who commit acts of violence against American Muslims, and, as we’ve seen in election after election, it rarely even results in votes,” Simpson said in a statement. “Hate violence against Muslims is now at an all-time high and, according to California State University-San Bernardino, this rhetoric is strongly correlated to increases in hate violence.”