A group of George Buck supporters showed up Thursday to a fundraising event for rival Amanda Makki waving a sign accusing Makki of being a terrorist.
She’s not, and Buck himself condemned the accusation.
Buck and Makki are two of five Republican candidates for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which is currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.
Buck already came under fire once for implying in an email early last month that progressive U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar should be hanged.
A photo, which has since been removed, showed up on protest organizer Ken Gorey’s Facebook page over the weekend calling Makki a terrorist.
Gorey organized a rally at Pete and Shorty’s in Pinellas Park on Thursday evening in response to a planned Makki fundraiser at the same location. The small group waved pro-Trump signs, displayed Buck’s campaign signs and held a lone sign reading “Amanda Makki is a terrorist.”
In a Facebook post ahead of the event, Gorey encouraged supporters to attend to “KEEP AMERICAN BORN CITIZEN’S in Congress,” errors and emphasis his own.
“Wake up Pinellas County we do not need Makki who is Iranian-born and worked for RINO Senator Murkowski for 7 years,” Gorey wrote.
Gorey was referring to Lisa Murkowski, a Republican U.S. Senator from Alaska for whom Makki served as a senior health adviser. RINO is a popular criticism of moderate Republicans and stands for “Republican in name only.”
Asked about the event, Buck said he was not involved in its planning and condemned the racially motivated claim that Makki is a terrorist.
“That’s not true. She’s a very nice lady. I would never condone that,” Buck told Florida Politics.
He cited his experience, including writing several books on terrorism and work with the University of South Florida and St. Petersburg College on terrorism-related content.
Buck said his campaign is running against Crist, not Makki, though he would have to win the GOP nomination before facing Crist in the general election this November.
However, in a Facebook post after the pro-Buck rally, Buck defended his supporters after law enforcement was called in objection to the group’s rally.
“My supporters took it upon themselves to hold a pro-George sign wave today in Pinellas Park at the same time and near where Amanda Makki held her very small event (low turnout),” Buck wrote. “I do not appreciate the Makki campaign calling the police on my supporters (who are also strong Trump supporters) who were sign-waving in a public area.”
Makki’s campaign said they did not call the police — management at the venue did.
A video, which has also since been taken down from Gorey’s Facebook page, showed an interaction with law enforcement and a business proprietor, but no one from Makki’s campaign appeared in the video.
“You can attack me all you want, but don’t intimidate and attack my supporters. Thankfully the police officers told my supporters they could stay,” Buck wrote on Thursday.
“Ask yourself — do you really want a representative who can’t handle a little feedback from constituents?”
Buck said that even though he condemns the group’s written comments attacking Makki, he understands it is their First Amendment right to do so. He said he has already spoken with members of the group, which often refer to themselves as the “Trump Squad,” expressing his discontentment with the message.
A spokesperson for Makki’s campaign condemned the group’s message.
“These desperate attacks are absurd. President George W. Bush trusted Amanda Makki enough to appoint her to the Pentagon General Council’s office after 9/11 because she was fluent in Farsi, she went on to play an important role helping the fight against terrorism. It’s unfortunate some continue to level baseless attacks with nothing to back it up.”