Since his election to the House in 2006, Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak has fended off strong criticism of his relationship with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a federally designated terrorist co-conspirator shown by FBI evidence to be a front for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Now in a tight race with Republican Pat Toomey for Sen. Arlen Specter’s open seat, a report asserting Sestak was caught in a lie – denying that he was ever in the home of the director of CAIR’s Pennsylvania chapter for a fundraiser on his behalf – has resurfaced.
CAIR Pennsylvania’s Iftekhar Hussain affirmed to WND’s Aaron Klein yesterday in a recorded interview for Klein’s WABC radio show that he hosted a fundraiser for Sestak during the 2006 congressional campaign.
But in an April 9, 2007, radio interview with WPHT’s Dom Giordano in Philadelphia, Sestak told a caller he had never been at the CAIR leader’s home. The interview, along with a recorded excerpt of a November 2006 lecture by Hussain in which the Muslim leader referred to the event, was reported at the time by Pamela Geller on her Atlas Shrugs blog.
The 2007 radio interview took place just two days after Sestak went through with a controversial decision to speak at CAIR Pennsylvania’s fundraising banquet in Philadelphia, and the freshman congressman was seeking to minimize the depth of his relationship with the controversial group.
Listen to clip of Sestak’s 2007 interview:
Giordano played the 2006 clip of Hussain on his show earlier this week, and last night he aired the portion of the 2007 interview in which a caller named Brian confronted Sestak on his ties to CAIR.
“Have you ever received any funds from CAIR or have you ever been in the home of the chairman of the local CAIR?” the caller asked Sestak.
“No, I haven’t,” the congressman replied. “I’ve been in the homes of local American Muslims lots of times. As a matter of fact, they probably have given me a number of fundraisers … as the local Jewish community has during the campaign. But, no, neither of the other two.”
“You haven’t been in Mr. Hussain’s home?” Brian asked again.
“No, I honestly don’t think I have,” Sestak said. “I don’t even know where he lives.”
Sestak’s spokeswoman April Mellody told Klein yesterday she didn’t recognize Hussain’s name and was not aware of the congressman ever having been in his home. She promised to inquire further but has not responded.
Sestak was the center of controversy last spring when he revealed the Obama administration offered him a position if he would drop out of the Democratic primary to clear the way for the incumbent, Specter. Republicans charged the offer was illegal, but Democrats insisted it was legitimate because the position was unpaid. Sestak went on to defeat Specter in the Democratic Party primary.
CAIR describes itself as a civil-rights group, but FBI evidence points to its origin as a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot Hamas, and the Justice Department designated it an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-finance case in U.S. history. The Washington, D.C.-based group, which has more than a dozen former and current leaders with known associations with violent jihad, is suing two investigators behind the best-selling expose “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America”.
In an interview Sunday with Philadelphia’s NBC television affiliate, WCAU, Sestak was asked if NPR’s firing of news analyst Juan Williams last week for expressing fear when he sees people in “Muslim garb” on an airliner is “an example of why taxpayer money should not go to NPR, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
“No, it isn’t,” Sestak replied. “I think it was untenable what he said. He said [his fear] was irrational. I understand that. But you need to get over it.”
As WND reported, NPR announced the termination of Williams’ contract after CAIR issued a statement calling for the taxpayer-funded network to take action.
Rich Davis, a 20-year Navy veteran, told WND he recorded Hussain’s 2006 lecture at Grove Methodist Church in West Chester, Pa.
Davis was participating in a class taught by Hussain that was part of a 10-week series called “Understanding Islam and the Quran.”
In the clip of Hussain’s lecture, the CAIR leader recalls being at his home with Sestak and a group of Muslims prepared to write checks for the candidate. Hussain said he asked Sestak if America was “capable of doing another internment camp – for Muslims?”
Listen to the excerpt of Hussain’s 2006 talk:
Hussain said Sestak’s answer – “I would hope not” – “scared the hell out of me.”
“He didn’t come out and say, ‘No.’ He couldn’t do it,” Hussain said.
Sestak, the CAIR leader recalled, “was trying to be intellectual.”
“And I’m okay with that, but these guys are about to give you checks,” Hussain said to laughter from the audience at the Methodist church. “Say the right thing. In the media, two-second blurb here, OK. He didn’t do it. I understand. He’s a good guy. Giving me a lot of grief lately, but he’s a good guy.”
Sestak is now the target of a $1 million ad campaign by the Republican Jewish Coalition that criticizes him for his involvement with CAIR, his support of a civilian trial for Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his backing of partisan congressional declarations against Israel.
Prior to Sestak’s appearance at the Philadelphia CAIR fundraiser, Jewish leaders held a meeting in which they pleaded with him to withdraw from the event. They argued that even leading Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer has described CAIR as an organization “which we know has ties to terrorism.”
Sestak declined and gave a speech to the CAIR supporters in which he lauded the Muslim group for doing “such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint.”
At the banquet, CAIR Pennsylvania gave an award to the Muslim TV network founder who was convicted of beheading his wife. The presentation by Hussain and CAIR National Chairman Parvez Ahmed was made to Muzzammil Hassan less than two months after he was charged with killing his 37-year-old wife, Aasiya Hassan.
Sestak argued he rebuked CAIR in his speech, noting he stated it was their “duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Sestak also responded with a statement on his website in which he reasoned that “establishing a dialogue with people is the only way to win the war of ideas.”
“That is why I agreed to speak to CAIR,” he said. “It even says in the Torah, understand the other side before you make a judgment, and once you make your judgment, speak the truth. In that vein, I went to CAIR tonight to speak honestly and frankly.”
Sestak said, “First and foremost, I attended tonight’s banquet because 250 of my Muslim constituents attended the event.”
“The American-Muslim community is a wonderful community and they have my strong support,” he said. “They are among our district’s leaders, and, among other things, have contributed to the success of businesses, educational institutions, interfaith circles and the health sector. Their participation in civic life is indicative of the great diversity and tolerance of this nation.”
Critics also point out Sestak hired a former CAIR staffer, Adeeba al-Zaman, to direct his local office. Al-Zaman was CAIR’s director of communications from April 2005 to September 2006.
Sestak claimed he was not aware of the then 23-year-old Al-Zaman’s background with CAIR when he hired her, although he interviewed her three times.
A new ad against Sestak produced by the newly launched Emergency Committee for Israel asks “Does Congressman Joe Sestak realize Israel is America’s ally?”
The group is governed by a three-person board of Bill Kristol of Fox News and the Weekly Standard; evangelical political activist Gary Bauer; and Rachel Abrams, a writer married to former senior Bush administration official Elliott Abrams.
“Sestak raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called ‘a front-group for Hamas,’” the ad’s narrator says, referring to CAIR. “Sestak signed a letter accusing Israel of ‘collective punishment’ for blockading Hamas in Gaza. Sestak refused to sign a bipartisan letter affirming U.S. support for Israel.
“Call Joe Sestak: Ask him to stand with Israel.”
Last year, Sestak refused to join a pro-Israel letter, signed by 329 members of Congress, urging President Obama to work closely with Israel to advance peace. In March, Sestak also declined to sign another congressional letter that affirmed the U.S. and Israel are “close allies.”
Critics note Sestak did sign a January letter lambasting Israel for using “collective punishment” against Palestinian residents of Gaza. The letter sought to put pressure on Israel to ease up on its blockade of the Hamas regime.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The CAIR legal attack on WND’s author is far from over. WND needs your help in supporting the defense of “Muslim Mafia” co-author P. David Gaubatz, as well as his investigator son Chris, against CAIR’s lawsuit. Already, the book’s revelations have led to formal congressional demands for three different federal investigations of CAIR. In the meantime, however, someone has to defend these two courageous investigators who have, at great personal risk, revealed so much about this dangerous group. Although WND has procured the best First Amendment attorneys in the country for their defense, we can’t do it without your help. Please donate to WND’s Legal Defense Fund now.