N.J. congressman gets death threats after ad claims he lobbied to protect sex offenders

Posted Oct 01, 2020

First-term Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski says he has received death threats after a right-wing conspiracy group highlighted accusations that he lobbied to protect sex offenders.

Malinowski, D-7th Dist., told NJ Advance Media Thursday that he was talking to U.S. Capitol Police as to what steps, if any, he needed to take in response to the threats. He is the chief sponsor of a bipartisan resolution before the House this week condemning the group, QAnon, and its conspiracy theories.

He is running against state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, in one of New Jersey’s most competitive congressional races. The political arms of both House Democrats and House Republicans list the Central Jersey district among their top priorities.

QAnon claims without any basis in fact that President Donald Trump is fighting a global child-sex trafficking organization that includes Hillary Clinton and many other prominent Democrats.

Malinowski said the phone threats came after an internet site used by QAnon included a copy of his resolution and a press release from the National Republican Congressional Committee claiming that the lawmaker lobbied to protect sexual predators.

The Republican congressional committee has amplified the charges in an ad, claiming that Malinowski, while director of Human Rights Watch’s Washington office, lobbied against legislation creating a national registry of sex offenders. The Washington Post’s fact checkers gave the ad their highest rating for untruthfulness.

“People call in and scream and say, ‘You’re going to get a bullet in the back of the head,'” Malinowski said in an interview. “They’re clearly reacting to the combination of the resolution I’m leading and the NRCC attack. The resolution alone is not why I’m getting death threats.”

“When I introduced the resolution, I got vitriol online but nothing like we’re getting now. This is a reaction to the NRCC putting out this throughly discredited attack that plays to the paranoia of QAnon supporters.”

NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said all the blame lies with Malinowski.

“The only person who bears responsibility here is Tom Malinowski for his decision to lobby against the creation of a national sex offender registry," Pack said. "It is a matter of public record archived on the U.S. Senate website that Malinowski lobbied against this bill. It is disgusting. And now Congressman Malinowski must live with the consequences of his actions.”

The chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, called on her Republican counterpart to take the ad down and apologize to Malinowski.

“The NRCC’s indifference to death threats made against a sitting member of Congress is unconscionable,” Bustos said.

What Human Rights Watch did was list the names of both of its lobbyists at the time, Malinowski and Jennifer Daskal, and every bill the group was concerned about, all together on one form, rather than specifically identify which bill each individual lobbyist was working on. Other groups have done the same.

At the time, Malinowski lobbied on international issues and Daskal on domestic ones, and her name was on communications regarding the sex offender bill. Human Rights Watch expressed concerns about the measure because it felt the legislation was overly broad, not because it opposed creating a sex registry. Daskal signed a letter to lawmakers, which was printed in the Congressional Record.

The ad, though, said Malinowski “tried to make it easier for sex offenders to hide in the shadows” and led an effort to block the registry.

Several current and former local New Jersey Republican officials called on the NRCC to remove the ad, as did a group of faith leaders from the state.

The Kean campaign forwarded the ad to its supporters, and Malinowski said his opponent deserves some blame for the situation.

“When that ad came out, when the attack came out and Tom Kean amplified it, I warned him that he was playing to a very dangerous and dark current in our politics,” Malinowski said. “Many people urged him to disavow this nonsense. He and the NRCC instead doubled down on this. And these are the consequences.”

Kean spokesman Harrison Neely said the candidate has denounced QAnon and will continue to do so, as well as “all violent or verbal threats against any individual.”

“No one should be receiving death threats, but Congressman Malinowski is wrong to attempt to lay the blame at the feet of Senator Kean,” Neely said.

“The facts are that Congressman Malinowski boasts about Human Rights Watch having won a Nobel Prize before he worked there, but he is refusing to take accountability for the organization’s efforts while he was the Washington director. Human Rights Watch broadly opposed a national sex offender registry and Malinowski signed the lobbying disclosure that said he worked on the issue.”

This is not the first time that Malinowski’s record at Human Rights Watch has been an issue. Two years ago, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super political action committee with ties to House GOP leaders, claimed that Malinowski “lobbied for terrorists' rights.”

He actually worked with the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to ban torture of U.S. detainees.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-10-02 03:28:05 -0700