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Questions raised about Jim Webb Senate campaign ad
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"That doesn't look so good. There's no question to me that's replete with anti-Semitic stereotypes," said Mark Feldstein, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. "I'm not someone who readily cries anti-Semitism, but I think it's hard to look at this and not see a number of anti-Semitic stereotypes plugged into this ad, from the hook nose to the 'antichrist' to the money-grubbing character."
Bruce Newman, a professor of marketing at DePaul University and editor of the Journal of Political Marketing, said it reminded him of 1930s German propaganda, where the Jewish character was subtly made out to be the thieving villain.
"It very much crosses the line," said Newman, who is Jewish. "I'm speaking with my professional hat on now. It's a modern-day caricature of the quote-unquote villain, the one who's out to make life difficult and hurt people in the town. I've seen literature from those days and this offends me quite a bit."
University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato said the flier wasn't really any worse than other campaign literature he'd seen in hotly contested races.
"I think that's a real stretch to call that anti-Semitic, and I'm not usually inclined to give candidates the benefit of the doubt," Sabato said.
A spokeswoman for Miller said her team originally thought the flier was a prank not produced by the Webb campaign. They're bothered by it, Taylor West said, but they're focused more on Tuesday's primary. The winner will face Republican Sen. George Allen in November.
"There's a role in calling attention to differences, but this cartoon is so outlandish. It ought to be an embarrassment to their campaign. It's so far beyond what any Virginia candidate has had lobbed at them," she said. "Despite the very personal attacks, we're going to focus on our message."
The Webb campaign insists the flier was not widely distributed but only available for the one event.
Smolen said he felt better knowing that.
"I'm completely satisfied with the Webb campaign's recognition that this in fact, had it gone out, could've been a damaging situation and that in the future they're going to make sure this doesn't happen again," Smolen said. "I don't think it was a deliberate smear."
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