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Scott Wallace, a liberal millionaire candidate running for Congress in Pennsylvania, was a member of a controversial private club in South Africa that used to discriminate against Jewish and black people and invited controversial speakers, including former head of the Apartheid chemical and biological warfare program.
Wallace, grandson of a former vice president who’s running as a Democrat in Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District against Republican incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, has been living in South Africa since the mid-2000s and has called it his “second country.”
During his time in the country, sometime around 2014, Wallace became a member of the Kelvin Grove club in Cape Town, an exclusive members-only club whose motto is “Respecting The Past, Embracing The Future.”
The past that the club say it respects is notorious. Due to its strict membership policies, including asking two existing members to vouch for you, the club effectively barred Jewish and black people from becoming members for decades.
A 2004 Cape Argus newspaper published a photograph taken in the 1940s that asserted the club’s anti-Semitic past. “In the foreground, the Kelvin Grove club looks like a large farmstead at the centre of thickly hedged cultivation. The pretensions of gentility are misleading: what Kelvin assuredly was then was a bastion of Waspish Cape Town’s more brutish impulses – no Jews allowed,” read the photograph’s caption.
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The pretensions of gentility are misleading: what [Kelvin Grove club] assuredly was then was a bastion of Waspish Cape Town’s more brutish impulses – no Jews allowed
The club insists that it never had a written rule to discriminate against any religion or race, while local South African Jewish groups said in the early 1990s that the Jewish community is mistaken to perceive the club as anti-Semitic.
Wallace’s membership at the Kelvin Grove club may raise particular scrutiny, especially after the fund he leads, the Wallace Global Fund, has donated around $300,000 in the past to anti-Israel groups that support the boycott campaign of the Jewish State.
Since the controversy over donations, Wallace has disavowed the anti-Israel groups and their efforts, issuing a statement explaining that the donations “were made by a member of the Wallace Global Fund’s leadership from a discretionary fund that other leadership did not exercise authority over.”
Many of the positive changes at the Kelvin Grove club came after the fall of the Apartheid regime in the country, which made it intolerable to discriminate against certain people. But the future the club embraced since the end of Apartheid raises concerns.
In 2013, the club invited Wouter Basson, the former head of the Apartheid chemical and biological warfare program, who’s been dubbed as “Doctor Death” over his alleged actions during the regime years, to give a “motivational talk” at the club.
Basson was found guilty of unethical conduct by a Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) tribunal in December 2013 – though the ruling was later overturned following his appeals – for actions that include the production of deadly drugs or other substances that were used against the regime’s critics, the South Africa’s Times reported.
The so-called “Doctor Death” also went to trial in 2002 after he was accused of multiple crimes, including 229 murders. He was acquitted of some of the charges thanks to technicalities, according to the Daily Maverick.
The club was unapologetic about inviting Basson, replying to its critics on social media. “He spoke well & those members present found his talk interesting. It’s best to keep an open mind,” the club tweeted.
Later that same year, the Kelvin Grove club also hosted a Cape Town Press Club event that featured then-ANC (African National Congress) Western Cape Leader Marius Fransman, who made comments perceived as anti-Semitic.
“The reality is… 98 percent… of the landowners and property owners actually is the white community and, in particular, also people in the Jewish community,” the South African Press Association quoted him saying at the club.
The lawmaker’s comments weren’t a surprise as he previously also made anti-Jewish comments, according to the Forward magazine. He accused an opposing dominant party in the region of giving “Jewish businessmen” building contracts that were previously held by Muslims.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies reportedly complained to the South African Human Rights Commission over the latter remark. Fransman fired back demanding an apology from the Jewish group.
The Wallace campaign did not answer Fox News’ questions whether he was aware of the club’s history before joining it. Instead, the campaign accused Fox News of “trying to smear Scott Wallace’s character.”
“Scott Wallace joined this club with thousands of members at a time when black South Africans were joining, more than two decades after Apartheid ended, when South Africa was embracing a new, democratic future in the spirit of Nelson Mandela,” Zoe Wilson-Meyer, communications director for Wallace’s campaign said in a statement.
“Scott’s work running a global foundation took him to South Africa to be a part of this changing country, where Scott helped empower women by working to stop female genital mutilation and end forced child marriages. Perhaps Fox News should be looking into reasons that Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick attended an event with a Holocaust denier and took money from misogynist Trump cronies like Elliott Broidy,” she added.