Rep. Jeff Denham demands an apology from challenger Josh Harder for a social media faux pas involving Denham’s wife and her ethnicity, which Harder now blames on the momentary indiscretion of an unnamed campaign staff member.
“Harder endorsed a racially charged attack on my wife,” reads the latest of three subsequent Tweets by Denham. “He must apologize & explain himself. He needs to come out & condemn these remarks by this protester & stand against race shaming in this election.”
Pressed for comment, Harder on Friday issued a statement reading: “Hateful comments have no place in our district, or anywhere for that matter.” And Harder’s staff said he wasn’t personally at fault.
The controversy stems from a video posted on Twitter showing people protesting outside a Tuesday event where Denham was to make a speech with topics including immigration issues. A woman is heard shouting, “Shame on your Mexican wife!” from behind a wrought-iron fence maybe 10 yards away from Denham, 51, as he walks from a vehicle to the door of the Red Event Center on Eighth Street in downtown Modesto.
Sonia Denham, 47, was born in Salinas. Her mother was from Puerto Rico and her father from Mexico, as Jeff Denham has noted many times, often while explaining how he helped his father-in-law gain U.S. citizenship. Jeff Denham, first elected to Congress in 2010, speaks Spanish.
Apparently without Harder’s knowledge, an unidentified supporter “liked” the video on behalf of his campaign, and reversed later with an “unlike,” a spokeswoman said. But Denham and his Republican supporters railed on Harder, a Democrat, in social media posts and in a campaign press release about Denham’s presentation that day to the Latino Community Roundtable.
A Denham Tweet on Wednesday referred to “a reprehensible attack on my wife that was based on her ethnicity. ... This should transcend politics and party.”
The Modesto Progressive Democratic Club, which organized Tuesday’s protest, posted a note saying members “don’t condone the comment made at the event.” The club then asked Denham to “call out Donald Trump with a similar passion for his comments calling Mexicans rapists,” among others of the president’s statements.
District 10 covers Stanislaus County and the southern part of San Joaquin County, and voter registration is about evenly split between both parties.
Harder didn’t respond the rest of the week until The Modesto Bee asked about the flap on Friday.
“While mistakes and accidents happen on campaigns, we’ll be certain to be mindful of what we’re tapping and clicking on social media,” Harder said.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390
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