(JTA) — Morgan Ortagus, the one-time spokeswoman for the State Department who is former President Donald Trump’s favored candidate in the primaries for a Nashville-area U.S. House seat, slammed a state politician who implied Trump’s Jewish daughter and son-in-law had a hand in securing her the coveted endorsement because she is Jewish.
The state GOP kicked Ortagus off the ballot this week because she had only moved to the state last year.
“I don’t think Trump cares one way or the other,” State Sen. Frank Niceley told NBC in an interview from last month that it only made public on Wednesday. “I think Jared Kushner — he’s Jewish, she’s Jewish — I think Jared will be upset. Ivanka [Trump] will be upset. I don’t think Trump cares.”
Niceley was already under fire for saying in a speech last week that the homeless should emulate Adolf Hitler, who Niceley said made something of himself after living for a period on the streets.
Ortagus told NBC that Niceley should “be ashamed of his repeated antisemitic rhetoric.”
“Senator Niceley’s repulsive words could not be more clear in disparaging the Jewish people,” she said. “This racism cannot stand.”
Ortagus has said she is considering challenging the Republican party’s decision. The incumbent, Jim Cooper, a Democrat, is retiring because he believes that redistricting has made the state’s 5th district too tough for a Democrat to win.
Niceley denied his intent was antisemitic.
“Let me be clear: I have nothing but respect for the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Niceley told NBC. “Attempting to construe my off-hand comments about the Trump family as antisemitism is unfair and inaccurate.”
A number of Tennessee Trump backers have reportedly targeted Ortagus because — like many officials who eventually embraced Trump — she criticized him while working for a rival in the primaries ahead of the 2016 election. According to NBC, she has also been targeted because the late Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a Jewish liberal, officiated at her wedding.
A spokesman for Trump told The Tennessean this week that the former president stood by his endorsement of Ortagus, and rejected any insinuation otherwise.