tags: , , , , Blog

Virginia GOP Candidate Cameron Hamilton Uses Antisemitic Tropes to Push Immigration Disinformation

Share This:

Virginia Republican candidate Cameron Hamilton this week boosted an obviously falsified flier that combined some of the far-right’s worst anti-immigrant and antisemitic conspiracy theories to attack the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a respected Jewish immigrant relief agency founded nearly 150 years ago. 

The bogus flier – initially shared by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, the group behind Trump’s “Project 2025” – sought to implicate HIAS in a fictional plot purporting to get new migrants to vote for President Biden. It was so transparently fictional that it was even dismissed by Bill Melugin, Fox News’ leading anti-migrant propagandist, who wrote that “this flier seems fake or doctored, even at first glance.” Yet that didn’t seem to stop Hamilton, who is running in the June 18th GOP primary to flip Virginia’s 7th District open seat, from promoting this fiction and amping up its conspiratorial rhetoric by adding an antisemitic trope of his own.

“NGOs encouraging migrants to politically support President Joe Biden after they cross the border into the United States,” Hamilton falsely claimed at X. “This is appalling and these NGOs should be listed as foreign agents attempting to influence our elections. Enough talk, secure the border now…”

The right’s aim here is not only to raise a non-existent issue around election integrity but also to relentlessly stoke anti-immigrant fears and antisemitic lies for self-serving political purposes. Just look at Hamilton’s claim about designating HIAS – which was founded in the U.S. in response to Jewish refugees fleeing hate and persecution –  as a “foreign agent.” This term has been used as an antisemitic trope. Recently, the authoritarian Russian government labeled an exiled chief rabbi of Moscow and an opponent of its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine a “foreign agent.”

Hamilton’s boosting of antisemitism is particularly dangerous considering recent history in his state. His district is just north of Charlottesville, where in 2017, a group of tiki torch-carrying white supremacists chanted, “you will not replace us, Jews will not replace us.” This event was met by deadly violence when a neo-Nazi rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer. 

But Hamilton is just one of many prominent Republicans currently platforming these dangerous anti-immigrant and antisemitic conspiracy theories. Elected Republicans, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, have been promoting these conspiracy theories, including the fake flier, to drive their sham and baseless impeachment effort against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a Jewish American refugee and the first Latino to serve in the position. 

“In a hearing yesterday, MTG attacked Secretary Mayorkas for his alleged ties to the ‘dark money industrial NGO complex’ of illegal immigration revealed in the Heritage Foundation ‘bombshell,’” America’s Voice said. “She linked the Secretary’s impeachment to ‘financing the invasion of the country but also telling illegal aliens to vote’ and declared on X that ‘They are going to steal the election with illegal votes.’ This is the antisemitic and white nationalist replacement theory, which was the justification for mass murder at the Tree of Light Synagogue in 2018.” The now-convicted shooter specifically invoked HIAS in his anti-immigrant diatribe. At least one other GOP member questioned the authenticity of the flier but then fearmongered around it anyway. 

Ongoing tracking by AV has found that dozens of GOP members have used language associated with the antisemitic conspiracy theory since January, including at least 170 instances from just the 11 House Republican Mayorkas impeachment managers alone. The New York Times reported this week that New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, questioned university leaders on cases of antisemitism on their campuses. However, absent from that report are the instances that Stefanik has promoted antisemitism through her echoing of replacement theory in recent years, including claiming that Democrats were planning to use immigrants to “overthrow our current electorate.” 

When a racist gunman then used this same replacement conspiracy theory to justify murdering ten Black Americans in her home state in 2022, Stefanik dared to feign outrage after observers noted her extreme rhetoric.

Republicans like Hamilton and Stefanik have also failed to condemn horrific, dehumanizing language spewed by indicted former President Donald Trump, who echoed Adolf Hitler in claiming that immigrants are “poisoning the blood” and are “not people.” We have already seen the tragic death toll resulting from dangerous rhetoric in Buffalo and other communities, said Zachary Mueller, Senior Research Director at America’s Voice.

“Gunmen in Buffalo and El Paso convicted of mass murder also justified to themselves in recent years that they were fending off an ‘invasion.’ These conspiracy theories come with a body count and years of community trauma, so when several Members of Congress are flippantly spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories, the whole country should take notice. No doubt, we can expect a lot more of this dangerous rhetoric as the election approaches, and everyone, including the media, should be on hyper-alert to rebut, debunk, and rebuke it.”