Lena Epstein headshot

Jewish Republican Senate candidate portrayed as David Duke supporter

Lena Epstein, who is seeking the Republican nomination in 2018 to run against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow for U.S. Senate, reported that her Twitter account was hacked earlier this month to make it appear that she “liked” posts made by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Epstein, who served as co-chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Michigan, accused state Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon of exploiting the situation by disseminating screen shots of her Twitter account before her campaign team had time to discover the hack and remove the content.

“Any suggestion that I support this type of hateful ideology is extremely disturbing to me, my family, the Jewish community and my base of supporters in Michigan and around the country,” Epstein, who is Jewish, wrote in an email to the Jewish News. “Whoever illegally hacked into my account chose to try and portray me as a supporter of all that I stand against. This is an affront to the Jewish community, and I am disgusted by Chairman Brandon Dillon and the Michigan Democrat Party for exploiting what is so obviously false.”

After Epstein reported the hack, the matter was turned over to the Michigan Cyber Commander Center (MC3) of the Michigan State Police for investigation, according to police department representative Shannon Banner.

Dillon said he assumed Epstein’s Twitter posts were legitimate and distributed the screen shots because he found the posts “disturbing.”

“I hope the investigation finds that she was hacked and that she didn’t do that,” Dillon said, “but it did not seem implausible because of the campaign she’s been running, her unapologetic embrace of Donald Trump and her association with unsavory characters like Ted Nugent.”

Rocker and former Detroiter Nugent, an avid Trump supporter, has endorsed Epstein and is campaigning on her behalf. The two appeared together on a national segment of Fox News on Aug. 16 to defend the president and his handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 that resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Trump condemned hatred and racism while claiming there was blame on both sides of the protest, which included neo-Nazis and those counter-protesting the white supremacists.

Epstein declined to comment when asked by the JN about Trump’s remarks defending some of the white supremacist protestors in Charlottesville as some “very fine people … that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue.”

While the president’s comments were praised by Duke, they incited a wave of criticism from politicians and leaders throughout the country on both sides of the political aisle.

She also declined to comment on whether, in advance of accepting his endorsement, she was aware of Nugent’s inflammatory, anti-Semitic Facebook posts in 2016 that superimposed the Israeli flag over the faces of 12 prominent American Jews who favored gun control laws, including former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin.

At the time, Duke congratulated Nugent in a Facebook post for telling “the truth” about Jews. Nugent subsequently apologized for the post after facing calls by fellow gun owners for his removal from the National Rifle Association’s board of directors. See David Duke’s comments

“Her [Epstein’s] claims of hacking would be more believable if she weren’t holding hands with people like Ted Nugent and Donald Trump,” said Dillon.

While Epstein said she could not comment further about the hacking because of the ongoing investigation, she included the following in her email response to the JN:

“As a Jewish woman with deep roots in the Jewish faith, a proud lineage of Jewish leaders and relatives who were killed in the Holocaust because of blind hatred and prejudice, there is little that could be more offensive to me than the suggestion that I support, ‘like’ or condone David Duke, neo-Nazis or any group that promotes hatred and prejudice.”

RONELLE GRIER Contributing Writer

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