A midnight flyer aimed at Hoboken Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla that says “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town” has been denounced by three other candidates in the race, with no one taking responsibility for the hateful campaign literature.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Last night a flyer with the word ‘terrorist’ above a picture of me appeared on car windshields in Hoboken. Of course, this is troubling, but I want to be clear: We won’t let hate win in Hoboken,” Bhalla, who is Sikh, said in a statement.
“I want people to know that Hoboken is a welcoming community where my wife and I are proud to raise our two young children. No matter your religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, you are welcome here in our City. And as Mayor, I will work hard to make sure we keep it that way.”
While the flyer is attributed to 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco’s mayoral campaign, the openly gay elected official sharply denied that he had anything to do with the flyer.
“A disgusting, racist flier was found on car windshields tonight that altered one of my campaign’s mailers and added a racial epithet aimed at Ravi Bhalla. I condemn this piece of racist garbage in the strongest possible terms,” DeFusco said on his website.
“Hoboken is far better than this and whoever made this flier is not only insulting one of my opponents in a despicable way, they are also painting me as a racist, which as the only openly gay elected official in Hudson County and a progressive Democrat simply could not be further from the truth.”
DeFusco added that he called Bhalla last night to condemn the flyer and sent a copy to the Hoboken Police Department to see who is “intentionally misrepresenting my campaign.” He also said he plans to send a copy to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Furthermore, the councilman posted a nearly six minute video on his Facebook page this afternoon speaking out against “bigotry, hatred and dirty smear campaigns.”
Freeholder Anthony Romano’s (D-5) chimed in as well, saying he was “appalled” to see the word “terrorism” used in campaign literature.
“We are appalled by the flyer that was distributed last night regarding Ravi Bhalla. The accusation of terrorism is not something that should be taken lightly; it is offensive to all of us,” Romano said in a statement.
“Those who assume a Sikh, Muslim or Middle Eastern person equates to terrorism are acting in a fearful and racist manner. Racism has no place in Hoboken and we must stand together against this.”
Behind the scenes, the Romano campaign has been accused of producing the mailer and pinning it on DeFusco, who has regularly traded blows with the freeholder in this race, a charge they have denied.
Furthermore, Council President Jen Giattino called the flyer a “cowardly act.”
“Last night a campaign flyer was left on windshields of cars throughout Hoboken. It contained an accusation against one of the mayoral candidates that was racially charged and just wrong,” she said in her own statement.
“This reprehensible act is completely unacceptable. There is no room for this kind of hateful and cowardly act in our election. We may differ in many of our views in this election, but I know that we all agree that this type of tactic has no place in our society.”
The flyer has gained traction beyond Hoboken, with even U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) weighing in on Twitter.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) November 4, 2017