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'We should hang’ Ilhan Omar, Florida congressional candidate writes in fundraising letter

Republican George Buck, who is challenging Charlie Crist, first said he didn’t write the email, then stood by it.
George Buck, left, a Republican running for Congress in St. Petersburg, signed a fundraising letter that suggested U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, right, a Somali-born Democrat representing Minnesota, and other Democrats should be executed. Buck is challenging U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. [Times | Associated Press]
George Buck, left, a Republican running for Congress in St. Petersburg, signed a fundraising letter that suggested U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, right, a Somali-born Democrat representing Minnesota, and other Democrats should be executed. Buck is challenging U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. [Times | Associated Press]
Published Dec. 3, 2019
Updated Dec. 4, 2019

A fundraising letter sent last week by the campaign of George Buck, a Republican running for Congress in St. Petersburg, suggested a member of the House of Representatives and other Democrats should be executed.

The lengthy email dated Nov. 26 repeated an unsupported accusation that U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born Democrat representing Minnesota, secretly works for the country of Qatar and should be gravely punished for it.

“We should hang these traitors where they stand,” the email said.

RELATED: George Buck’s degree is from a diploma mill. But candidate stands by his work

It is unclear who the other “traitors” are, but the email spotlights the man Buck is challenging, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and freshmen U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. Along with Omar, the three women of color are often singled out by President Donald Trump as political enemies.

When reached for comment Tuesday morning, Buck said he didn’t write the email and that fundraising pitches are sent by his campaign manager, whom he declined to name.

“That was not me. I did not see that," Buck said. "I would never talk like that.”

The email was in the format of a letter, signed by Buck.

Later in the day, Buck sent the Tampa Bay Times a lengthy statement that appeared to stand by the fundraising email. The statement included the constitutional definition of treason and the federal punishment: "death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000.”

“Anyone who commits treason against the United States should be tried to the full extent of the law,” Buck said. He declined to elaborate further.

The fundraising email uses the same kind of violent language that prompted Twitter to permanently suspend from its social media platform Danielle Stella, Omar’s Republican challenger in Minnesota.

Like Stella, Buck referenced an unverified story that Omar is an asset of Qatar who passed information to Iran. Omar has denied the report, which was circulated by the Jerusalem Post but has not been corroborated by American news outlets or the U.S. government. The positions and statements of Omar, who is Muslim and often speaks critically of Israel, are frequently chronicled by the newspaper.

Buck describes himself as a “Conservative, America-First Republican” and a veteran on his campaign page. He is one of six Republicans in Pinellas County running to challenge Crist for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Buck was the GOP nominee in 2018, but lost decisively to Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat and former governor, in the general election.

The fundraising email accuses Crist of being “responsible for this" (meaning Omar) because he voted for the current House leadership. It falsely says Democratic leadership includes Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congresswoman who has become a frequent recipient of Republican ire, and goes on to claim Crist “declared himself a Democratic socialist,” which is also untrue.

In his 2020 campaign, Buck has raised $180,000. He is listed on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s website as one of the party’s “Young Guns” — a distinction reserved for those running in competitive districts who have met certain “campaign organization” thresholds.

The Republican committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee removed George Buck from its Young Gun program. Our story is here.

After the story published, Pinellas County GOP chairman Todd Jennings wrote on Facebook: “There is no room for this kind of inflammatory rhetoric in either political party. No one should ever condone a candidate’s call for violence.”

It’s the second time in a week that a Tampa Bay Republican has suggested Trump’s political opponents should be hanged.

In a Facebook post first reported by the alt-weekly publication Creative Loafing, Hillsborough County Republican Party chairman Jim Waurishuk wrote “Need some hangins” and shared a meme of three nooses with the words “Noose flash: Treason still punishable by death.” Trump has lately accused those working against him of treason.

Waurishuk told the Times that the post was a joke shared on his private Facebook page and did not reflect the views of his organization.

“Of course, I’m not advocating that literally,” Waurishuk said.

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