GOP state Senate candidate apologizes for ad some deemed anti-Semitic

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HARTFORD -

Connecticut Republicans are facing national backlash over an advertisement that some say is anti-Semitic.

The ad in question portrays Matt Lesser, who is running for the state Senate in Middletown, holding cash with a hysterical look on his face.

Lesser says the mailer uses similar imagery used to persecute Jewish people for centuries. Lesser added that it was particularly painful coming just days after 11 people were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

"My wife Sarah is from the same neighborhood in Pittsburgh where, on Saturday, the worst incident of anti-Semitic violence in American history took place," says Lesser. "She grew up four blocks away from the Tree of Life Synagogue."

Ed Charamut, the candidate behind the mailer, says it was only meant to claim Lesser would raise taxes.

On Tuesday, Charamut accused Lesser of "using the Democratic playbook of identity politics to hide from his record." But on Wednesday, Charamut issued a new statement saying, "It is clear now that the imagery could be interpreted as anti-Semitic, and for that we deeply apologize."

The state Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano has also since backtracked and called the mailers offensive after originally dismissing the story.

News 12 asked Romano for an interview, but was told his schedule was too busy.

Religious leaders have also spoken out against the advertisement.

"When a mailing like this happens with clear anti-Semitic overtones, it heightens that anxiety," says Rev. Josh Pawelek of the Unitarian Universalist Society.

The mailer has since received national attention from CNN, CBS News and The Washington Post.

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