Prominent supporters of Los Angeles City Council candidate and Assemblyman Paul Krekorian denounced two mailers sent last week by the campaign of his opponent, former Paramount Pictures Corp. executive Christine Essel, that accuse Krekorian of sexism and anti-Semitism, based in part on comments on a blog.
Tuesday's runoff race for former City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel's seat in the San Fernando Valley has grown increasingly caustic in the final weeks, but Krekorian condemned one of Essel's new mailers as "the most disgusting and grotesque political communication" he had ever seen.
In the first mailing, Essel's campaign said a previous Krekorian campaign mail piece had portrayed her "hog-tied with arms and hands held back by heavy rope." Krekorian's spokesman said the mailer, which depicted a smiling Essel with ropes lifting an ankle and her wrists as she stood on a DWP bill, was intended to portray the candidate as a puppet controlled by the union that represents Department of Water and Power employees. That union has independently spent more than $244,000 to boost her campaign bid.
Essel's campaign consultant, John Shallman, said Krekorian should apologize for the portrayal.
The mail from Essel's campaign also charged that Krekorian and his supporters "have unleashed a shocking barrage of nasty, sexist and anti-Semitic personal attacks" on a website. Shallman provided a list of comments that the campaign had collected from readers of Mayor Sam's Sister City blog as examples.
Krekorian's campaign stressed that it has no relationship to the independent blog, created in 2004 by Valley resident Michael Higby. In a telephone interview, Higby said he supports Krekorian but has no official role in the campaign. He and two other writers on the blog have authority to approve reader comments, he said.
A second Essel mailer late last week showed an image of City Hall wrapped in barbed wire and accused Krekorian of "intolerance." The piece criticized "anti-Semitic hate speech" on the website of Asbarez, an Armenian newspaper, that Essel's campaign said was owned or controlled by Krekorian supporters. The source listed was a report in Asbarez about an Essel event at the home of a Turkish American. The Essel campaign said the reference to "hate speech" stemmed from reader comments posted below the article that now appear to have been removed.
Krekorian's spokesman said the campaign has advertised in the newspaper but has no other connection to it.
Shallman said Krekorian and his supporters have misrepresented Essel's position on the Armenian genocide, which claimed the lives of more than a million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) starting in 1915. The Turkish government disputes that a genocide occurred.
Because of the misrepresentations, Shallman said, Essel put out a statement in the Armenian press underscoring her condemnation of anyone who denies the genocide. He added that Krekorian should have publicly condemned the comments on both websites.
"Paul Krekorian's silence on the sexist remarks and anti-Semitic remarks has been deafening," Shallman said.
Rep. Brad Sherman, who recorded an automated phone call criticizing the Essel mailers, said it was "utterly absurd" for Krekorian to be blamed for comments by "some lunatic" on a website. He said he believed the mailers would backfire: "It undermines our efforts to fight hate speech and anti-Semitism."