Rep. Steve Knight won't condemn the violent rhetoric of a man starring in his campaign ad.
A man who quotes Hitler, shared an illustration calling for President Obama to be lynched, and advocates for shooting journalists is the star of a campaign ad from Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA).
In the ad, David Brayton of Santa Clarita was filmed seated next to a smiling Knight, telling a story of how Knight helped him with a medical issue.
Who is Brayton? According to the L.A .Times, Brayton recently wrote on a social media account, “Perhaps all Jews on television should wear the ‘sign’ in this last photo … just to make sure the audience knows … wink wink.” The photo Brayton referenced showed a yellow Star of David inscribed with the word “Jude,” which Nazis in Germany forced Jews to wear during World War II.
Brayton used a variety of accounts on Facebook because he would sometimes get banned for his inflammatory and violent rhetoric.
On one account, Brayton has “an image of a man pointing two machine guns in the air. ‘Hear me Islam,’ the caption says. ‘I will slaughter you with your own knife.'”
His rage did not stop with Jews and Muslims. In one post, he shared an image of two white men putting a noose around the neck of President Obama. In another, he shared an image of men leading Hillary Clinton to the gallows, presumably to be hanged.
In an overt threat echoing Trump’s attack on media outlets, Brayton suggested, “CNN should be indicted, found guilty and face a firing squad.”
When reached by the L.A. Times for comment, Brayton stood by his remarks and posts on social media.
On Facebook, Knight said he was “proud to have earned” Brayton’s vote, and pledged “this is who we work for.”
In a statement that goes out of its way to not condemn the violent and abhorrent rhetoric promoted by Brayton, Knight campaign strategist Matt Rexroad said, “Congressman Knight does not choose to help people based on their political views, period.”
According to the Times, Rexroad “said Brayton’s background was irrelevant to Knight’s decision to help him get medical care, and there was no reason to vet his social media postings before putting him in a TV commercial.”
While irrelevant to Knight, Brayton’s violent rhetoric comes to light just as America is reeling from a string of domestic terror attacks linked to Trump’s unhinged rhetoric.
A Trump supporter recently sent improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to CNN and numerous prominent Democratic officials and activists, including former Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton.
And on Saturday, a man walked into a Pittsburgh Synagogue and killed 11 worshippers, inspired in part by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories peddled by conservative outlets and some Knight’s fellow Republican members of Congress.
Still, Knight is smiling in an ad with a man who unabashedly promotes vile, hate-filled rhetoric on social media — the same type of rhetoric that inspires domestic terrorists.
And Knight not only refuses to condemn it, he downplays the hate speech as merely “political views.”
Knight’s tepid response reflects a man who has been slavishly devoted to the Trump agenda for the past two years. Knight, who is currently locked in a tight race against Democratic nominee Katie Hill, voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and has backed the Trump agenda a full 99 percent of the time while in Congress.
Knight’s own campaigning history is not free from violent rhetoric. When campaigning in 2015, Knight threatened one of his own constituents, saying, “I’ll drop your ass.”
If politicians truly wanted more civility in politics, nothing short of a full-throated condemnation of Brayton’s rhetoric would be acceptable. Instead, Knight embraces Brayton and makes him a star in his campaign ad.
In the end, that’s who Knight is fighting for.