National Republicans break with GOP House candidate who says 'traitors' should be 'hanged'

ABC News 6 days ago

National Republicans are breaking with a U.S. House recruit, George Buck, who is running in Florida's competitive 13th Congressional District, after he sought donations from supporters by insinuating that several Democrats, including Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, should be hanged.

In a fundraising email sent last week, the Republican candidate's campaign for the St. Petersburg-area seat, singled out Omar and falsely accused the Somali-born Democrat, elected in last year's midterms, of working for the country of Qatar and asserted she should be punished, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The email also mentions Buck's Democratic rival, incumbent Rep. Charlie Crist, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

"We should hang these traitors where they stand," the email reads, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The campaign literature does not explicitly state who he is referring to as alleged traitors, the paper reported.

ABC News has not independently reviewed the campaign literature.

PHOTO: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the University of Minnesotas Williams Arena on Nov. 3, 2019 in Minneapolis.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the University of Minnesotas Williams Arena on Nov. 3, 2019 in Minneapolis.

Buck initially told the Tampa Bay Times he did not write the email, even though it included his signature, adding, "I would never talk like that."

In a statement to ABC News Wednesday, when asked about the fundraising email and the NRCC's decision, Buck asserted that treason is a crime punishable by death.

"I am a decorated veteran of the 101st Airborne Division. As someone who has taken the oath to defend the Constitution, I take that oath very seriously," he said in the statement. "Anyone who commits treason against the United States should be tried to the full extent of the law."

"Treason is one of the few crimes the Constitution has as punishable by death," he added.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, he also said, "Any Republican who calls me out for my rhetoric but doesn't call out the Democrats for theirs are hypocrites."

Buck did not respond when asked by ABC News if he is suggesting Omar or the other Democrats mentioned in his campaign literature committed treason.

Omar's campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., disavowed Buck's email, saying in a statement Wednesday, "there’s no place for inciting violence in politics."

"Instead of doubling down on these disgraceful comments, the candidate ought to apologize unequivocally and denounce these unacceptable statements," he continued.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign arm, dropped Buck from its "Young Guns" program, the party's recruitment and mentoring program for rising House candidates running in competitive races -- a move that distances the GOP from the controversial candidate who is standing by the email.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made the decision to remove Buck from the program, and NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer, a Minnesota congressman, agreed with the decision, according to a committee spokesperson. Buck was announced as a member of the program on Oct. 30, alongside 23 other Republicans.

Tlaib, one of Omar's key allies, quickly came to her defense, condemning Buck's email in a tweet: "The fact that those who make these violent threats very publicly without hesitation reaffirms just how much white supremacy has spread within the @NRCC. They are raising money on a call to hang a Black Muslim member of Congress and too many are silent. @IlhanMN."

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump has frequently ridiculed Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley--four minority congresswomen who have dubbed themselves the "Squad" on the campaign trail, drawing criticism from both Democrats and some Republicans for his rhetoric.

Ocasio Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were born in the U.S., and Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee when she was a child, has been living in the country since she was 12 years old and is a U.S. citizen. In the 2018 midterm elections, all four women won a popular vote to claim their seats in Congress.

Trump has particularly targeted Omar calling her "an America-hating socialist."

The president threaded a vicious string of verbal attacks against Omar at an October campaign rally in her home district, calling out her positions on Israel, which elicited scattered "send her back" chants from the crowd.

"She is a disgrace to our country, and she is one of the big reasons that I'm going to win and the Republican party is going to win Minnesota in 13 months," he continued.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign rally at the Target Center on Oct. 10, 2019 in Minneapolis.
President Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign rally at the Target Center on Oct. 10, 2019 in Minneapolis.

Buck isn't the only congressional candidate to take aim at Omar.

Twitter suspended the account of Danielle Stella, Omar's Republican opponent in the 5th Congressional District race, after she falsely suggested the congresswoman may have passed intel to Iran and should be "tried for treason and hanged," according to the New York Times referencing a screenshot of a tweet sent from her account.

ABC News did not review the original tweet, which can no longer be accessed.

Omar previously denied the allegations made against her according to The Jerusalem Post. Her office told the New York Times that such stories are “outlandishly absurd.”

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