A weekend forum for Republican House candidates in central Pennsylvania was cancelled Wednesday amid backlash over an invitation extended to a candidate with alleged white nationalist views.
The invitation was extended to Sean M. Donahue by the Dauphin County Council of Republican Women, in the 11th District race for the seat of retiring GOP Rep. Lou Barletta. A representative for the group told Fox News the event was cancelled, without elaborating.
The pushback was led by candidate Andrew Lewis, an Iraq military veteran who said he’d boycott the event scheduled for Saturday.
Donahue, as of Wednesday, had yet to officially enter the race, but a Facebook page and website apparently connected to him declares Donahue a candidate.
Lewis -- a businessman running on a pro-Trump, America First agenda -- argues Donahue’s “anti-Semitic, pro-segregationist, and white-supremacist views and values” have no place in the county, much less the forum.
“The greatest thing about America is that here, no matter who you are, the color of your skin, or where you come from, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard you can become whoever you want to be and nobody can hold you back,” said Lewis, who had called on other candidates to also boycott the forum.
Candidate Dan Meuser also had been invited, but a spokesman said Wednesday he wasn’t planning to go because of Donahue.
Donahue could not be reached Wednesday to answer questions about Lewis alleging he holds white supremacist views.
A statement posted online that appeared written and posted by Donahue suggested that he’s trying to win by taking up Barletta’s hardline immigration stance and that he’s long been a victim of the media and political establishment.
“If we do not want to control immigration from South and Central America, we must accept Whites will ultimately become the racial minority in the United States,” the nine-page statement also reads. “If I am elected, I promise to preserve the American dream for Americans and to deny that dream to foreigners.”
The statement also attempted to explain allegations that Donahue associated with former KKK leader David Duke, while saying an online talk show he coordinated provided a forum for “extreme radical views.”
One resident on Wednesday expressed dismay over how the weekend candidates’ forum had to be called off over the controversy, while calling it the right move.
“I think it was better to have cancelled the forum, than to have legitimized the views of such a candidate,” said Jim Lucas, a Republican voter in that congressional district. “But these types of events are very important. So I’m a little disappointed that it was cancelled.”
A rally this summer in Charlottesville, Va., organized by white supremacists and others from the so-called “far right,” resulted in violent clashes and the death of a woman killed in a vehicle attack. The incident sparked national outrage and refocused attention on such groups, as elected politicians of both major parties condemned such views.
More recently, the longshot campaign of Paul Nehlen, a Republican challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan for his Wisconsin House seat, was significantly set back by Nehlen’s social media posts, considered by critics to be anti-Semitic or sympathetic to white supremacists.
Donahue was convicted last year on one count of making a "terroristic" threat against a local official, according to the local publication CitizensVoice.com.