During a Constitution Day Rally in Sterling Sept. 17 for GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, John Whitbeck, the chairman of Virginia's 10th Congressional District Republican Committee, offered the crowd what many are considering anti-Semitic remarks.
Telling what he called a joke, Whitbeck said: “ … when the pope is elected, the head of the Jewish faith goes to the Vatican and brings a ceremonial piece of paper. It's very old and it dates back hundreds of years, and he comes into the pope's office and he ceremonially hands the piece of paper to the pope, the new pope. And then the new pope ceremonially rejects it. And the head of the Jewish faith leaves . . . Well, this time around, the pope said: 'I gotta find out what's on this piece of paper.' So he actually takes it from the head of the Jewish faith, he opens it and he looks at it, and he closes it ... and his Jewish counterpart says 'what was it?' And he says, 'well, that was the bill for the Last Supper.'”
State Sen. Mark Herring, the Democratic nominee to be the next attorney general of Virginia, and masses of Virginia Democrats quickly condemned the comments.
Herring was the first local candidate for November's elections to blast Whitbeck for his so-called joke.
“His comments were offensive, deplorable and a disgrace to Loudoun County and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Whitbeck needs to issue a public apology immediately for his statement, and every candidate on the Republican ticket should condemn these types of inflammatory comments,” Herring said in a statement Sept. 17.
Herring, who has served in the state Senate since 2007, said “he's worked hard to foster an environment that is welcoming of people of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds.”
“Mr. Whitbeck’s comments stand in stark contrast to those beliefs, and the efforts of so many in our community to promote acceptance,” he noted.
A Leesburg attorney, Whitbeck campaigned for the House of Delegates 10th District seat in 2011, a race he lost in the Republican primary to current Del. Randy Minchew.
Since 2004, Whitbeck has donated more than $5,500 to Republican candidates or the GOP 10th District Committee, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
“At yesterday's rally, I told a joke,” Whitbeck told the Times-Mirror on Sept. 18. “I did not tell an anti-Semitic joke. I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service.”
Whitbeck continued, “Any alleged outrage over this joke has been wholly manufactured by American Bridge, an organization founded by Democrat activist David Brock and funded by Georg Soros. American Bridge, which has the sole purpose of electing Democrats by attacking Republicans, has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to defeating Cuccinelli by any means they deem necessary.”
The 10th District Committee chairman called attention to Cuccinelli's recent endorsement from the Northern Virginia Technology Council's (NVTC) TechPAC, saying the Democrats are "desperate to change the topic."
“Northern Virginia Technology Council's TechPAC's endorsement of Ken Cuccinelli over Terry McAuliffe has clearly changed momentum in the race for governor,” Whitbeck added.
The Cuccinelli campaign, however, said Whitbeck's comments were ill-suited.
“I don’t even know who [Whitbeck] is. It’s wholly inappropriate and not connected to the campaign. And it’s not reflective of Ken Cuccinelli,” Chris LaCivita, a Cuccinelli adviser, said in a statement.
Whitbeck's comments have been widely circulated on social media and the Internet, including HuffingtonPost.com, Salon.com and NYMag.com.