I am quite puzzled by the seemingly strong support that Frank Pallotta, the GOP challenger to Congressman Josh Gottheimer for New Jersey’s 5th Congressional district, has received in the Orthodox community. Our community is dedicated to very definite and identifiable values which are informed by our belief in Torah and we live our lives according to those same values. We need a representative who shares those values.
GOP candidate Frank Pallotta does not share our values and is not deserving of our support. As recently as this past Sunday, October 25, Mr. Pallotta rejected an opportunity to denounce and condemn the Oath Keepers, one of the largest far-right, radical, antigovernment militia groups in the U.S. today. This organization was named by the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security as a domestic terror group and as an “extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
Mr. Pallotta’s response to the request to denounce them by Congressman Gottheimer was to say “My supporters are my supporters. They’re not racist, they’re not xenophobes. They’re not homegrown terrorists. They’re good people. They’re your people. They’re in your district.”
Why is this of any import? Because Skylands Tea Party President Bill Hayden, a member of the Oath Keepers, is a close friend and advisor to Mr. Pallotta. Mr. Hayden and his group have posted QAnon-type rhetoric, including comparing wearing masks to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust on their social media.
Mr. Pallotta has also made the ridiculous accusation that the state inflated its number of COVID-19 deaths so Governor Murphy would have an excuse to mandate a mostly-mail general election in order to boost Democrats at the polls. He has further backed the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 despite the fact that the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization abandoned it as a treatment. On his Facebook page, Mr. Pallotta frequently posts about events he is hosting, at which social distancing rules are ignored and few, if any, are wearing masks. Several of these events also appear to be indoors. Earlier this month, Mr. Pallotta said that if he were elected, his first bill in Congress would be to outlaw masks! In short, Mr. Pallotta is following the ridiculous conspiracy theories espoused by his friends regarding this pandemic. If his judgment is so impaired in this regard, he has no place representing our district.
A person who supports such hate filled and dangerous groups and promotes fringe anti-scientific approaches to dealing with the pandemic does not deserve our support. It is against our values and our interests.Rabbi Benjamin Kelsen, Esq.