Congressional Candidate Jesse Kelly is still dodging our questions about a controversial endorsement by the group Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC), but the head of that group is speaking out.
ALIPAC is jumping into the fray, firing back at KGUN9 News because we asked a question that referenced quotes from Senator John McCain’s campaign and the American Defamation League (ADL), claiming ALIPAC is tied to white supremacists.
On its website, ALIPAC states its mission is to fight illegal immigration and amnesty, by working with Americans of every race and party. However, William Gheen, ALIPAC’s president, believes 9 On Your Side presented the organization in a negative light.
“Your coverage insulted or called us Nazis and we are not Nazis. We’re a multiracial organization that works with Black and Hispanic leaders and organizations that have spoken against groups and racism on many occasions,” Gheen said in a phone interview.
KGUN9 News did ask Jesse Kelly to answer a viewer’s question about ALIPAC’s endorsement, in an interviewed that aired Wednesday.
“Senator John McCain and the Anti-Defamation League denounced the group for having been backed by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. Why then did you accept this endorsement – and this is from Joe Evano.
But what can’t be disputed is this: Senator John McCain did condemn the group when his former political opponent J.D. Hayworth received ALIPAC’s endorsement. It appears that Gheen thinks the acknowledgement of that in itself is a problem.
“Most of the media outlets have looked at those exact same accusations over the years and found there was no real basis for those claims,” Gheen said. “No other news agency has carried that aspersion except for KGUN9.”
Reporter Claire Doan pointed out that there were several articles on the Huffington Post and other news sites, mentioning the denouncement.
“I think there was one a while back during when John McCain made the announcement two years ago,” Gheen responded, then pointing out that KGUN9 News should not have resurrected the issue.
However, it was also ALIPAC that just last week came out the list of candidates it is endorsing.
The ADL claims white supremacists and neo-Nazis support ALIPAC and take action on its behalf. We reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists ALIPAC as an extremist group.
“We don’t have any evidence that ALIPAC actively tries to work with neo-Nazis. It may be but we haven’t seen anything like that,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at Southern Poverty Law Center.
Still, Kelly chose not to defend ALIPAC in the May interview with Jennifer Waddell, and ducked the same question back in October 2010.
“Didn’t you apply for that endorsement and does that endorsement tie you in any way to the group?” Doan asked Kelly.
“We’re supported by a whole bunch of groups and we don’t know who supports those groups,” Kelly responded.
“But did you apply for their endorsement,” Doan asked again.
“We’re supported by a whole host of groups who like our stance on illegal immigration.”
So how does ALIPAC feel about that?
“Wouldn’t [Kelly] also be able to defend ALIPAC and say that it has nothing to do with neo-Nazis and that he’s proud of the endorsement he’s received?” Doan asked Gheen.
“It’s not his job to defend ALIPAC. He’s not in the know about everything that happens in our multifaceted national organization,” Gheen said. “I want your viewers to know that there are a bunch of liberates at KGUN9 that are trying to influence the outcome of the congressional campaign and they’re resorting to laying about people being associated to neo-Nazis to accomplish that goal.”
Gheen said ALIPAC is a multiracial group that speaks out against racism; and that he personally has a history of helping elect the first blacks and first women in North Carolina.
For the record, KGUN9 News does not claim ALIPAC is tied to neo-Nazis. However, credible politicians and activists have made such claims, and 9 On Your Side believes those comments are fair game for political reporting.
Gheen said ALIPAC’s endorsement of Kelly stands, and the group applauds Kelly for rebuking KGUN9 in what Gheen thinks are efforts to engage in negative campaigning.