After weeks of headlines about South Jersey Republican congressional candidate Seth Grossman’s views on diversity (“crap”), African American oppression (“exaggerated”), Kwanzaa (“phony”), Islam (a “cancer”), and other postings and comments, the national Republican Party has finally had enough.
Monday night, the National Republican Campaign Committee chairman, Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, issued a statement saying the NRCC was withdrawing its support of Grossman and calling on him “to reconsider his candidacy.”
“Bigotry has no place in society — let alone the U.S. House of Representatives,” Stivers said in a statement. “The people of New Jersey’s Second District deserve an inclusive Republican candidate who will be a trusted conservative voice in Congress.”
The national Republicans had previously declined to comment or distance themselves from Grossman’s comments, posted on YouTube by the left-leaning American Bridge super PAC and first reported by the Inquirer and Daily News on June 11. Since then, a steady stream of additional stories documenting Grossman’s years of Facebook posts and other comments have been published by outlets including CNN and NPR.
Earlier Monday, the Media Matters website published a story about Grossman’s retweeting “white nationalist propaganda,” including a piece claiming black people are “a threat to all they encounter.” The statement from the NRCC followed shortly after.
Grossman, in an interview Monday night, said he would not drop out of the race, in which he will face Democrat Jeff Van Drew, a state senator from Cape May County generally considered a conservative, to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who is retiring after 24 years in Congress.
Grossman, who based his candidacy on his support for President Trump, said he had raised about $55,000, most of that after the publicity about his views. He again declined to distance himself from his comments but said he does not consider himself racist. A well-known conservative and libertarian activist and lawyer in the Atlantic City area, Grossman said that when he retweeted the story referred to in the Media Matters report, he prefaced it with “Oy vey,” which he said meant he was not endorsing the content.
In the retweet, made in 2014, Grossman wrote: “Oy vay! What so many people, black, white and Hispanic, whisper to me privately but never dare say out loud publicly. Back in the Old Country, people were very careful about what they said for fear of retaliation. At one time, America was a free country and people were not afraid to express their true thoughts.”
Grossman said he has not heard directly from either state or national Republicans and has no plans to abandon his candidacy, which has brought him national publicity as a symbol of a Republican Party that is all-in for Trump. Locally, county Republican parties in the sprawling district have either declined comment or continued to support Grossman’s fund-raising efforts.
“The Republicans are saying I don’t understand the people of the district,” Grossman said Monday. “I’m saying the people in Washington and Trenton don’t understand the people of this district. There’s only one way to find out.”
Van Drew’s campaign has condemned Grossman’s remarks, though Van Drew himself has declined to personally attack Grossman, a longtime friend. Interviewed on Atlantic City talk radio station WOND earlier Monday, Van Drew said: “I’ve known him for years. I have nothing personally against Seth Grossman. I disagree with him about diversity.”
Van Drew added: “Very few of us, and not me, came over on the Mayflower.”
Monday night, Michael Muller, the chief strategist for Van Drew for Congress, had harsher words for Grossman, calling him “unhinged and unfit for office,” and criticized the slow response of the Republican Party:
“It’s been 29 days since the media first broke the story of Seth Grossman’s hateful rhetoric,” Muller said in the statement. “If the NRCC had done a cursory Google search, or even visited their chosen candidate’s website or Facebook page, they’d know what most voters in South Jersey already know. Seth Grossman is unhinged and unfit for office.”
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the American Bridge, said in a statement Monday night that the Republican disavowal of Grossman’s campaign was “too little too late. Voters will see through this act of political desperation and hold Republicans accountable this November.”