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Former Clinton Aide Fires Back Against Gop E-mail Attack in Illinois Campaign

A former White House Jewish liaison running for Congress in Illinois’ 10th District is firing back against an e-mail accusing him of attending a “convention filled with anti-Semitic bloggers.”

The convention in question was YearlyKos, an annual conclave linked to the liberal blog Daily Kos.The gathering over the weekend drew many political candidates, including several leading presidential contenders.

The e-mail came from Andy Lappin, a supporter of the Republican incumbent Mark Steven Kirk. Lappin’s e-mail cited five postings as his proof of the anti-Semitic nature of the gathering. Two of them were posted in the blog’s unregulated comments section; another two were taken down because of their offensive nature and are now archived on a separate site.

Footlik, who lived in Israel for four years after stepping down as Bill Clinton’s Jewish liaison, accused Kirk of mounting a campaign of personal destruction against him and condemned the quotations he said were “cherry-picked” from the Daily Kos Web site.

“I obviously condemn those remarks and those attacks,” Footlik told JTA. “But let’s remember that those remarks and those attacks can also come from right-wing bloggers, and often do. You can’t dismiss this entire group of people on the basis of the disgusting and horrific comments of a few.”

Kirk could not be reached for comment.

Footlik’s Jewish credentials are difficult to beat. After leaving the Clinton White House, he worked on projects promoting Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, including some with Israeli President Shimon Peres. He is a partner in a Washington consulting firm with Yuval Rabin, son of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. His wife, Grace, is Israeli and a veteran of the Israeli Air Force.

In June, Footlik’s candidacy was endorsed by a number of prominent Jewish Americans, including two former chairs of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Mort Zuckerman and Shoshana Cardin, and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz.

“This is something that is deeply personal to me as it is for many American Jews,” Footlik said. “To somehow say that because I went to a conference where some bloggers happen to write things that are horrifically anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, that I stand with Ahmadinejad and I stand with the virulent anti-Semites and Israel bashers — nothing could be farther from the truth.”

Lappin’s e-mail also criticized Footlik’s main competition in the Democratic primary race, Dan Seals, for attending the conference. Seals fell short in his 2006 bid to unseat Kirk.

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