Well, I'm pretty sure I have your attention with THAT headline...
Please understand I do not throw around the word "antisemitic" lightly. It drives me bonkers when conservatives get called racists just for questioning Obama's policies, the NAACP's accusation that the tea party movement is racist is in my opinion fraudulent and reckless, and in general I think when someone starts yelling that you're a bigot, it's usually just a sign that that person just can't think of any better arguments. That being said, when someone is actually exhibiting racist or antisemitic behavior, then I think that we should criticize them, and loudly.
The reason I am accusing Falconer's campaign of being antisemitic relates to a telephone call I received on Tuesday from one of his inner circle of supporters, who I will call "Susie." I am going to leave her name out of it, because my issue is with Falconer, "Susie" is not the candidate and not a public figure. If Falconer is dumb enough to sue me for what I write here then I will go public with "Susie's" real name and some other information. I am writing the truth here, about what I heard with my own ears, and will defend myself with the truth.
Before I describe the phone call, let me give you a little background on this story, to provide some context and the information that supports my belief that Falconer may be encouraging antisemitism in his campaign...
I first met Falconer about a year ago, when he sent me a Facebook message attacking me for going to a Bill Segal event, and saying that he would see me at the Orange County Young Republicans meeting that night. I had never met Falconer before, and honestly thought that the tone of the message was a bit confrontational (i.e.,insinuating "I'm coming to find you and you had better explain yourself").
Falconer did come to the OCYR meeting that night, and proceeded to tell all of us that he was not a Republican, but registered independent, and that he was going to get into the Orange County Mayor's race. Well, I'm no rocket scientist, but I can tell you, it's not the best political strategy to go to a Young Republicans meeting, announce you're not a Republican, and then ask for support. He also got in my face after the meeting to badger me about Segal. I don't remember precisely what I told him, but I remember pointing out that it was a nonpartisan race, and that there weren't any Republicans in the race.
I didn't think much of the interaction at the time, but apparently it put me on some odd sort of list of Falconer targets. Over the next few months, Falconer would attack me and lie about me, in conversations with his circle of supporters and in blog posts and emails.
For the record, I had given Segal $25.00, after my boss at the time asked me to attend a young professionals fundraiser held by Segal's campaign. My donation is public record and you can find it if you search Segal's campaign finance reports from last year. I have never worked for the Segal campaign, not as an attorney, a consultant, or in any other capacity. I have also not done a cent of work for any PAC supporting Segal. I never work for a campaign without a written agreement and written invoices, invoices that are required by law to show up on campaign finance reports.
Over the next few months, two Republicans, County Commissioner Mildred Fernandez and former County Commissioner Teresa Jacobs, joined the Orange County Mayor's race, and Falconer changed his registration to Republican, and joined the Orange County Republican Executive Committee for the first time. I had joined OCREC as well. All REC's require a loyalty oath of members, that you will not support other candidates against Republicans. My little $25 donation to Segal was before I joined OCREC, and before any Republican was in the race, so even if I had been a member of OCREC, it would not have violated the oath. Regardless, after joining OCREC, I never have given anything more to Segal, and after Teresa Jacobs joined the race, I endorsed her.
Facts didn't seem to matter to Falconer, he sent around several emails attacking me, as well as posting on Doug Guetzloe's Ax the Tax message boards. Suddenly I started getting angry phone calls at my house from OCREC members, asking why I was in OCREC if I was a registered Democrat, why was I running Segal's campaign, etc. After the second time I had to explain to a caller that I was actually a Republican, wasn't working for Segal, and certainly wasn't running his campaign, I asked where these silly stories were coming from, and the caller admitted it was Falconer. Several people forwarded me emails where Falconer wrote what were, in my opinion, libelous and defamatory statements about me.
Then, I got a phone call from Lew Oliver, the OCREC Chairman, who told me that Falconer was claiming I was working on Segal's campaign and he was going to make a motion at the next meeting to have me removed from OCREC. I told Oliver that Falconer was making up junk, he was just annoyed that I wouldn't support him, and I was not and had never worked for Segal. Oliver told me that was fine, if I wasn't actually working for Segal, then there was no problem and no grounds to remove me from OCREC.
Well, I was pretty annoyed at Falconer after all this. I've been a registered Republican since I turned 18, except for a short period in college because there was no Republican Party in Alachua County when I got there in the mid 1990s. When I moved back to Central Florida, I happily registered Republican again, and have been ever since. I was a College Republican and Law School Republican at UF, and I am currently a dues-paying member of the Orange County Young Republicans and the Republican National Lawyers Association. I've been a loud-and-proud Republican for almost fifteen years, and here is this Falconer character who finally decided to be a Republican just a few months ago attacking me?
The same day I got the phone call from Lew Oliver, I attended a Republican Jewish Coalition debate between District 24 Congressional candidates at a local art gallery. The RJC is a great organization and you do not have to be Jewish to join or to attend their events. Falconer was also at the event, and I confronted him about his attacks on me. Not wanting to interrupt the debate, I motioned for Falconer to follow me outside, and we met on the sidewalk just outside the gallery's door.
Our "discussion" got a little heated after I told him I didn't appreciate him lying about me. Falconer's defense was something along the lines of he had "heard" I was running Segal's campaign, and if I was, then I didn't belong in OCREC, so he was "obligated" to make sure Oliver knew about my treasonous activities. I've never had an unlisted phone number, I have several email addresses that any idiot could Google and find, so Falconer attacking me without having the facts and not even bothering to try and contact me just showed me that he was looking for a target, not the truth. I told Falconer that I took my name and reputation seriously, that I don't need people to like me but I would not tolerate false attacks on my ethics, and he should think twice before picking a fight with me.
As one of my friends who witnessed my "discussion" with Falconer described it, I "chewed Matt Falconer up into little bitty bits" and then he "scurried off with his tail between his legs." Well, that's one view. ;) Anyway, I thought that now this should finally be the end of it, Falconer never made a motion to remove me from OCREC, I wasn't involved in the Orange County Mayor's race, had other races to which I was devoting my attention, and I didn't hear anything from him for a few weeks...
...and then the attacks started again, in a mass email from Falconer, accusing me of being a liberal progressive and other nonsense. This annoying little pattern would repeat itself, over and over, for a several months. Falconer would attack me, I would try to explain the actual facts and tell him to stop trying to pick a fight with me, that I wasn't involved in the Orange County Mayor's race, but if he kept attacking me, I might just get inspired to get involved. For heaven's sake, I'm not running for office, my Mom and Dad think I'm pretty special but in the grand scheme of things I don't consider myself any sort of VIP. I shouldn't be so interesting to a County Mayoral candidate! (I had not yet started this blog at the time, FYI.)
In one email exchange, I pointed out that Teresa Jacobs had a history of voting against tax increases, and was a big champion of transparency in government and campaign finance (one of my pet issues), so it was complete crap to say supporting her makes me a liberal. As for the other candidates, Mildred Fernandez had been arrested and dropped out of the race, the other two candidates were Democrats, and he, Matt Falconer, had been rude to me since we had met and had falsely attacked me over and over without ever apologizing, so what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks did he expect me to do? As a member of OCREC, there were two Republican candidates left for me to support, one who had always been gracious to me (Jacobs) and one who had been a total jerk (Guess Who?). By Falconer's own conduct, he ensured that I would absolutely not consider supporting him, now or ever.
...and so now we are here...as you may have guessed, Falconer ignored my fifth or sixth (maybe seventh, I forget, they all run together) request to leave me alone, and so I decided that one of the things I would write about on this blog is pointing out Falconer's hypocrisy, logical problems, and lack of consideration for other people. As you probably guessed, Falconer has not been very happy about what I write about him. He especially didn't like me calling him an "arrogant twit" in my post about his campaign signs. Too bad. In my opinion, Falconer's disrespectful response to Angie Langley's request that he remove the sign he put on her private property without her permission was arrogant.
Anyway, Falconer's latest strategy has been to get his supporters to try and talk me into supporting him. His wife, Cheri Falconer, sent me a Facebook message (you don't have to be friends with someone on FB for them to send you a message) saying:
...I'm so sorry you & my husband have had such controversy. I can honestly say he is honest, incredibly intelligent & hard working. He'd never say anything he knew to be untrue. I pray you'll find some common ground in the future. We can all benefit from some positive change & teamwork amongst conservatives!
Mrs. Falconer, I assume that your husband is good and kind and honest with you. I sure hope so. But as far as my experience with him goes, he has not been honest. He has repeatedly spread lies, been extremely rude, and never, ever apologized or corrected his false statements.
Another supporter of Falconer's who contacted me is the "Susie" who I reference at the very beginning of this post. As I said before, I'm going to leave her anonymous as long as I can. Like I said, my issue isn't with her, it's with the candidate, Falconer.
Susie first contacted me on June 1 this year, with a Facebook message asking me to call her and if we could find a time to meet for lunch to chat. We never managed to get a lunch scheduled, but we did talk on the phone several times. Susie wanted very much to find a way to get me to support Falconer, to "make peace" between us. I have told Susie repeatedly that my issue with Falconer isn't a mere political disagreement, it's personal: his lies and attacks on me are what set me against him. Falconer's bandwagon Republican politics and hypocritical campaign positions are just details that give me something to write about. Anyway, I've told Susie several times that unless I receive a sincere and public (since he had attacked me publicly) apology from Falconer, then I had zero interest in trying to work out anything with him.
OK, all that background took a lot longer than I expected, but I wanted to provide the context for the call I received on Tuesday. It wasn't just out of the blue, it was from someone who has been calling me and sending me messages for the past month and a half, continuously trying to advocate for Falconer.
So here we are on Tuesday...I was on my way to the OCYR HobNob, when my cell phone rang (note for later records: this is the call that came in at 5:48 p.m. and lasted 10:54 min) and it was "Susie." Susie at first wanted to discuss another local political matter, but then the conversation turned to Falconer.
I took notes on the conversation when I got home later that night. I've waited a few days to go public with this, to give myself time to calm down and think about it. This is, I believe, an accurate recollection of my Tuesday conversation with Susie. Because I do not have a recording of the conversation, I have paraphrased most of our words, but there are a few phrases that I specifically remember, whichI have indicated with quotes where I can.
Susie: I still wish you and Matt could work this out.
Sarah: I don't think that is going to happen, Susie. Again, this isn't a political disagreement, he lied about me, he refuses to acknowledge that, he won't apologize, and I've made up my mind.
Susie: Well, you know, I just think we should all be working together.
Sarah: If Falconer wants to apologize, I'm willing to listen to it, but I don't see that happening. I know you are trying to make something happen here, but too much has happened. I don't want to encourage you to keep wasting your time.
Susie: "Are you a believer?" [exact quote]
Sarah: What do you mean? [I had a feeling she meant religion, but I wanted her to articulate what she meant]
Susie: "...even though you're Jewish," you still have faith, right? [exact quote saying I was Jewish, can't remember if she asked if I had "faith" or "beliefs"]
WTF?! First of all, Jewish people do have faith. They believe in GOD. Jesus was a Jew, remember? Second of all, and more importantly, what the heck does this have to do with Matthew Falconer and whether or not I'm supporting him? Oh, and by the way, I'm Presbyterian.
Sarah: What? I don't understand what you mean. "What difference does it make if I'm Jewish?"
Susie: Well, you were supporting Segal and now you're supporting Jacobs "because you're all Jewish..." [exact quote]
Sarah: Actually, I'm not Jewish, I'm Presbyterian, my family belongs to First Presbyterian downtown, where my parents got married, and I don't know if Segal or Jacobs are Jewish either, but seriously, Susie, what difference does it make if I'm Jewish or Segal or Jacobs are Jewish?
Susie: Oh, you're not Jewish? Really? Oh, "I had been told that you were all Jewish."
Sarah: No, I'm not Jewish. But, again, I don't see what difference it makes if any of us are or aren't Jewish!
Susie: Well, I'm not...it's not that...well...[she stopped and started her sentence several times here]..."I'm not saying that anyone is more Anglo-Saxon than anyone else..."
That's where I cut her off, told Susie I was at the Citrus Bowl and needed to find a parking spot and go into the HobNob, and ended the phone conversation as quickly as possible. I was very agitated and didn't want to hear any more.
Saying someone is "more Anglo-Saxon" than someone else is pretty much the same thing as saying someone is "more Aryan." I have a lot of German heritage in my family, should I have asked "Susie" if I was "Anglo-Saxon" enough to survive the roundup? I did some research the next day, apparently Segal is Jewish but his wife isn't, and Jacobs' husband is Jewish but she isn't, but again, it shouldn't make a #&$%! bit of difference if any of us are or are not Jewish!!!
Susie was absolutely convinced that I was Jewish, I heard the conviction in her voice, and strongly believed that my support of Segal and then Jacobs was because we were all Jewish. I got the clear impression that this was not something she had just suddenly imagined that moment, but rather something she had discussed before with other people, multiple times. Susie made several statements about what she "had heard" or "had been told." Someone was telling her that the Jews are conspiring against Matthew Falconer, so the big question is WHO?
The only logical explanation for this crazy Jewish conspiracy nonsense, is that Falconer has to remember me chewing him out at the RJC event, and he probably saw me greet several of my friends who are involved with that organization, so he must have thought I was Jewish too. I support the RJC, even though I'm not Jewish, because I have studied history, and I know the dangers that antisemitism can bring. Falconer was there by himself and I do not remember anyone else at the event who is supporting Falconer.
Because "Susie" is a close supporter of Matthew Falconer, and I know she talks with him and regularly attends their campaign meetings, and because the only logical source of a Falconer supporter thinking I might be Jewish comes from Falconer seeing me at the RJC event, I can only assume that Falconer has told his supporters that I am Jewish, and that Falconer is either telling his supporters that I'm supporting certain candidates because they are Jewish, or he is aware of such conversations.
I have told this story to several people over the past few days, and what I've heard in response is troubling. Several minority Republicans have told me that Falconer was rude to them. One gentleman told me that he was at an event recently and Falconer went down a line of people, greeting them and shaking their hands, until Falconer got to him. Falconer skipped over him, the only nonwhite person standing in that group, and went to the next person. The gentleman even said something to Falconer like "Hey, aren't you going to say hi to me?" but Falconer just turned and walked away. I've heard other similar stories about Falconer ignoring or otherwise being rude to minorities.
Maybe there's a logical explanation for it, maybe Falconer didn't shake that guy's hand because he suddenly had to go to the men's room? Maybe it's all coincidences?
Or maybe it isn't.
I am issuing a public challenge to Matthew Falconer:
Mr. Falconer, this type of antisemitic/racist behavior is disgusting and despicable, and not welcome in the Republican Party. If you can offer a logical explanation for my conversation with "Susie," or any of your other behavior, then I'll publish it here, but I just haven't been able to think of one in the past three days, so I'm pretty interested to see what you can come up with.
Mr. Falconer, if "Susie's" conversation truly was just some of your supporters making up bigoted nonsense on their own, then you need to set the record straight and publicly denounce these antisemitic statements. If you are in any way contributing to an antisemitic or racist atmosphere in your campaign, then you need to do some serious soul searching.
And one final thing, Mr. Falconer, I'd advise you to not waste your money on legal fees. This conversation happened, I've recounted it as accurately as I humanly can, and truth is an absolute defense to libel and defamation suits. If you sue me, you'll only draw more attention to some very negative information about your candidacy. Ask Mel Gibson if he has second thoughts about attacking his ex-girlfriend now that those tapes of his nasty phone calls have been released. Think Mel will star in another big Hollywood movie ever again? Think you can get elected if some media source besides my little blog questions if you're antisemitic or racist?
OK, that's the whole story. I'll let y'all know if Falconer responds...or if his lawyer does.
[Special note on comments: If you haven't figured it out already, comments are moderated, and I'm not going to approve anything abusive or obscene. I'm also not going to post any guesses about "Susie's" identity, so don't try. Thank you.]