W.Va. group invokes Congressman Rahall’s Arab background, Obama support in TV ad

By Lawrence Messina, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TV ad targets W.Va. congressman’s Arab background

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia group led by Republican tea party activists is running an ad trying to link longtime Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall to President Barack Obama, emphasizing the congressman’s Arab-American ancestry.

One of the leaders of the group paying for the ad, West Virginia Conservative Foundation, also contributes to a blog that has targeted Rahall and suggested he has ties to terrorists or their supporters.

In the ad, ominous music plays as Rahall discusses his chairmanship of the Arab-Americans for Obama group when Obama was a presidential candidate. The ad ends asking viewers to call Rahall and “tell him to stand with West Virginians.”

The 61-year-old Rahall, a Presbyterian whose ancestors are of Lebanese descent, is vying for an 18th U.S. House term in the state’s southern 3rd Congressional District. He faces Republican and former state Supreme Court Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard, whose campaign didn’t immediately comment on the ad.

The conservative group spent more than $227,000 on the ad, but declined to reveal its donors.

“With this ad campaign, we are taking our educational efforts to the next level,” the group said in a statement.

Lance Eric Schultz and Nathaniel “Thorney” Lieberman, Charleston-based Republicans and tea party activists, are listed as the group’s current leaders. A photographer, Lieberman’s work and activism appears on a blog that routinely attacks Arabs and Muslims, particularly on topics involving Israel.

The blog also promotes the view that Obama is a Muslim who may not have been born in the U.S. Obama is a Christian who was born in U.S.

The president is considered unpopular in West Virginia. He failed to win in 2008 and state Republicans have seized on the president’s low approval ratings in several races, including Rahall’s.

State Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart, who founded the conservative group, distanced himself from both the ad and the group Wednesday.

“I don’t support that ad in any way, shape or form,” said Stuart, who became party chief in July. “I abhor that sort of thing.”

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