As we noted over the weekend, the letter Tom Campbell wrote to the University of South Florida in 2002 on behalf of Sami Al-Arian has snarled him in yet another controversy over his record on Israel and Islamic terrorism. Now the Los Angeles Times has perked up:
Campbell had previously conceded that he wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf, but had said during a candidates’ debate Friday that he did so before Al-Arian’s interview with O’Reilly. His campaign’s website also said the letter was written before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The text of the letter showed otherwise. Dated Jan. 21, 2002, it said, ” . . . I respectfully wish to convey my sincere alarm that Professor Al-Arian may be treated harshly because of the substance of his views.”
Campbell went on to write that “I have formed this fear because of the paucity of evidence supporting the purported reasons for this discipline against him. I read a transcript of the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.”
Now Campbell is changing his tune yet again:
On Monday, Campbell said in an interview that despite the language of his letter, he had never read the full transcript of the O’Reilly interview, specifically the “Death to Israel” language. If he had seen it, he said, he never would have written the letter.
“That’s too zealous,” he said. “Unacceptable. Calling for death to a country or individual is unacceptable.”
This is rather pathetic. He said in the interview that he wasn’t aware of Al-Arian’s inflammatory rhetoric. The letter says he was, in fact, aware of it. But now he says he really didn’t know, although he wrote that he did. This is the meticulous, smart guy his proponents defend? His campaign now states that Campbell’s memory is “foggy.” Perhaps it’s foggy on many counts, and the best thing for Campbell would be to review his own record, come up with a definitive defense for his votes to cut aid to Israel and his association with Islamic terrorists, and then hold a press conference and get it all out in the open. As Chuck DeVore’s campaign spokesman said, “Whether it’s absent-mindedness or deception — the only person who knows that for sure is Tom Campbell — there’s a pattern of inaccuracy whenever Tom Campbell ventures into these subjects. … We have to double-check everything he says about his past associations with these radicals because we can’t trust him to give us the whole truth.”
And when the issue migrates from Israel to terrorism to credibility, there’s a problem. California voters have much to consider, it seems.