Counting down to Cockburn’s nomination, GOP had fingers on the send button

Opponents waste little time attacking Rapp Democrat

Cockburn: ‘This is what Republicans do’

No sooner did Leslie Cockburn get nominated by Democrats last Saturday to face freshman Rep. Tom Garrett in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District campaign and the state Republican Party labeled her “anti-Semitic.”

“Cockburn has a long history of anti-Semitic rhetoric which can be documented over the past 25 years,” the Republicans charged, hitting the send button with their accusations before the Democrat had even thanked her supporters for their nomination.

“This is what the Republicans do,” Cockburn told the Rappahannock News, saying instead it is her opponent, Garrett, “who is in a vulnerable position on these [racism] issues.”

“In the wake of the tragedy that was Charlottesville, it is unconscionable that the Democrats would nominate an anti-Semite like Cockburn to represent that town and that district in Congress,” stated state GOP executive director John Findlay. “The Republican Party of Virginia calls on the Democratic Party and Senator Tim Kaine to swiftly and unequivocally withdraw their support for Leslie Cockburn.”

Findlay was referring to the 1991 book, “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship,” co-authored by Cockburn, a former investigative journalist for “60 Minutes.”

“Cockburn’s [sic] book advocated for the inherently anti-Semitic belief that Israel controls America’s foreign policy,” said the Republican release.

Reached by this newspaper, Cockburn, a resident of Rappahannock County, offered no apologies for the book’s contents, which was co-written with her journalist husband, Andrew Cockburn.

“It’s a very good book . . . a very serious book,” countered the candidate, adding that contrary to the GOP’s synopsis the chapters were not centered around U.S.-Israeli governments and foreign policy, but rather a “brass tacks” examination of the “military and intelligence” relationship between the two countries.

That didn’t stop Virginia Holocaust Museum co-founder Jay Ipson from stating in the Republican Party’s release: “I don’t know to which hate group she was trying to cater [to] with her book, but her [Cockburn’s] claims are wildly inaccurate . . . Cockburn and the Democrats want to take away Israel’s ability to defend itself.”

To which 2014 Israel Prize Laureate and Tel Aviv University professor and historian Irad Malkin issued his own statement, shared by the Cockburn campaign: “I wrote at length about Dangerous Liaison for Ha’aretz and to call Leslie Cockburn an anti-Semite is outrageous.”

“He is guilty of having received a white supremacist in his office on Capitol Hill . . . smiling together for the camera,” Cockburn recalled of Garrett, referring to a now infamous meeting last year between the Republican lawmaker and Jason Kessler, who organized the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that led to the death of one person and numerous injuries.

“And he’s trying to make me look bad?” asked Cockburn.

Garrett later claimed that he wasn’t aware of the white supremacist and alt-right activist background of Kessler, who graduated from UVA with a psychology degree in 2009, when they met in the congressman’s office.

Now, having secured her party’s nomination this past weekend, and with just under six months to campaign before the November 6 election, Cockburn disclosed that “our campaign strategy is to do the same and more of it. We’ve worked hard so far and we’re going to work a lot harder.”

Which means traveling tens of thousands of miles from now until Election Day in an oddly gerrymandered district that stretches from North Carolina to just west of Dulles International Airport, including all of Rappahannock County.

Cockburn told the News that it was extremely gracious of her former Democratic opponents to offer their support to her candidacy at last Saturday’s party convention in Farmville.

She told how Ben Cullop ceremoniously pinned on a Cockburn campaign button, while Roger Dean Huffstetler recalled how some have questioned whether a woman can beat a southern white male.

“Well, she just beat three of them!” Cockburn paraphrased Huffstetler as reminding the crowd, referring to her three former Democratic opponents.

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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at