Republican Tim Donnelly, defending his campaign’s social media posts linking rival Neel Kashkari to Islamic law, was on a conservative talk radio show Wednesday when a Kashkari adviser called into the station to protest, resulting in more than 10 minutes of unusual, head-to-head bickering and an apology by Donnelly for a tweet he acknowledged was inaccurate.
The unusual exchange came after Donnelly’s gubernatorial campaign this week included on its Facebook page a link to a program for an “Islamic Finance 101” seminar at the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008, when Kashkari was a senior Treasury official. Kashkari was listed as providing opening remarks for the seminar, the purpose of which was described as helping ‘inform the policy community about Islamic financial services, which are an increasingly important part of the global financial industry.”
Accompanying the link was the comment, “Given the recent stories and protests around the outrage of the discriminatory nature of Sharia law, we’re horrified that Kashkari would support Sharia anything.”
Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, said on KSCO AM 1080 in Santa Cruz that he “just allowed a post to go up” on Facebook referring to a 2008 commentary in The Washington Times. He said, “I didn’t say that Mr. Kashkari is somehow, you know, a supporter of Shariah law, but he certainly was the host of this seminar, and on it was Shariah compliance.”
Donnelly was confronted on air by Aaron McLear, a political adviser to Kashkari. Donnelly and Kashkari are the two main Republicans running in an uphill contest to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.
“It sounds like the assemblyman is once again a bit confused about the truth, and so I thought it’d be helpful to educate him on exactly what’s going on,” McLear said. “Neel Kashkari, first of all, is a Hindu, not a Muslim, as Mr. Donnelly is trying to insinuate.”
Donnelly said he “never insinuated anything,” and he shot back at the Kashkari campaign for a website posting attacking Donnelly on a variety of issues.
“Hey, Aaron, you guys put up a website trying to educate people about me, and it’s completely fabricated and full of nonsense,” Donnelly said.
The two men argued over each other briefly, after which the host said, “OK, one at a time, guys.”
McLear said of Donnelly, “He tweeted, he tweeted, he directly accused Neel Kashkari of submitting to Shariah law. That’s a big accusation. What actually happened was Neel was teaching Islamic bankers how to promote free market principles in Islamic societies under Shariah law, so it was actually the exact opposite.”
McLear asked Donnelly if someone had hijacked his Twitter account, and he said, “These are big accusations. You need to back it up, Tim. If you can’t prove it, you shouldn’t say it.”
McLear and Donnelly tangled until the radio station went to a break. When the show came back on, with McLear off the air, Donnelly said he had reviewed the tweet McLear complained about and agreed it was inaccurate.
“You know what? Aaron’s right. We did re-tweet something that wasn’t 100 percent accurate,” Donnelly said. “We owe Mr. Kashkari an apology for that.”
However, Donnelly said, “What is disappointing is that (Kashkari) sent his hired hand to call in, instead of calling in himself.”
Donnelly said the purpose of the Treasury conference was to educate people in government about Islamic finance. “So what exactly was the Shariah compliance portion of it? It doesn’t sound like promoting free market principles.”
In an interview Thursday, Donnelly lamented what he said was “much ado about a Facebook post and a tweet.”
But the controversy has gained wider attention.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, rebuked Donnelly in a statement Thursday, saying there is no place in public discussion “for this type of hateful and ignorant garbage.”
“As far as I’m concerned, this type of stupidity disqualifies Tim Donnelly from being fit to hold any office, anywhere,” said Issa, who supports Kashkari. “Donnelly is no longer a viable option for California voters.”
Donnelly brushed aside the criticism, saying in a prepared statement that “the ignorance and stupidity of Mr. Issa’s comment is only surpassed by ... lack of any factual content.”
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.