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Researcher: Duncan Hunter’s Use Of Racist Rhetoric Panders To Some Voters’ Baser Instincts

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, leaves his hearing, Sept. 24, 2018.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, leaves his hearing, Sept. 24, 2018.

Researcher: Duncan Hunter Use Of Racist Rhetoric Panders To Voter's Baser Instincts


John Sepulvado, host, The California Report


As the November election draws near, campaigning for the 50th Congressional District has drifted away from the issues and zeroed in on what researchers are calling bigoted rhetoric.

Much of the rhetoric is heard from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, in a recent recording captured by Ken Stone of the Times of San Diego at a September campaign event in Ramona.

“Radical Muslims are trying to infiltrate the U.S. government,” Hunter can be heard saying. “You have radical Islamist propaganda being pushed on kids in our San Diego school district.”

What Hunter describes as radical Islamist propaganda was actually an anti-bullying program that focused on Islamophobia.

The speech came hours after Hunter appeared in court on federal charges of misusing campaign funds, a case he claims is politically motivated. He slammed federal prosecutors and his Democratic challenger, Ammar Campa Najjar, alleging he was named after Yasser Arafat.

Campa-Najjar has said he was named after his father, not Arafat. Campa-Najjar said he eventually changed his name to pay homage to his mother.

RELATED: Ammar Campa-Najjar On His Race For the 50th Congressional Seat

While critics call Hunter's rhetoric Islamophobic, his campaign has said the allegations are pure political nonsense.

However, Professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSU San Bernardino, said the language is racist.

"This is the leading edge of something we are seeing socio-politically and that the rhetoric isn't just tinged with racism, but immersed," Levin said.

That same rhetoric is being echoed by some of Hunter’s supporters.

Retired Navy Capt. Joseph John who appeared in a Hunter ad shared his thoughts on Campa-Najjar during a September rally,

“He was indoctrinated in Gaza until he was 13 years old by the Palestinian Liberation Organization," John said.

Campa-Najjar identifies as Christian. He said he went to a Catholic School in Gaza, left when he was 11 and was raised in San Diego by his mother.

John's comments can be described by what Professor Levin says is fear not based in fact.

“People maintain attitudes based on three things: emotion, cognition and then there is the behavioral aspect. Many people today are hearing a story that resonates with them emotionally and the facts don’t necessarily need to line up,” Levin said.

Levin said factual currency is worth a lot less in today's socio-political world than it was before. In part, because people can revert back to group echo chambers on social media where facts don't hold the same weight as anecdotes and fear. The situation makes society, right down to congressional districts, more fragmented and tribal.

RELATED: Hate Crimes Rise In US Cities and Counties In Time of Division and Foreign Interference

“We’ve seen social media and other types of communication become weaponized,” Levin said.

Research shows hate crimes and incidents of bigotry have recently gone up in San Diego and across the country.

“During political seasons, with hot button issues, we sometimes see an increase in bigoted behavior particularly against certain groups and we've seen that in the past and were seeing it repeated, we believe, now,” Levin said.

Recent research shows 42 percent of Americans polled think white people are currently under attack.

Levin warns, for those people, fear often trumps facts.

“As some of the research has indicated, there are large swaths of white Americans who believe that their status is being challenged and that comes into a whole array of fears,” Levin said.

Levin's research shows hot button political issues often stoke the fire as elections draw near.

Whether it’s immigration, a Muslim ban, a movement that says black lives matter too, LQBTQ equality, women's equality or a Mexican-Palestinian-American running for Congress, Levin said there is fear and anxiety, for some, over the changing demographics in America. Now that same fear and anxiety is pushing bigotry and racism into the mainstream race for the 50th congressional district.

"Bottom line is, the line between dog whistle and bull horn, with respect to contemporary politics, has now eroded. It is gone," said Levin.

Hunter's campaign denied that his rhetoric is Islamophobic.

In an emailed statement, a campaign spokesman said: “This Islamophobic claim is completely contrary to the fact that Congressman Hunter has endorsed a Muslim candidate in Omar Qudrat running for Congress here in San Diego County.”

As the November election draws near, campaigning for the 50th Congressional District has drifted away from the issues and zeroed in on what researchers are calling bigoted rhetoric.

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