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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jewish leaders respond to TV ad; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

One of GOP gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore’s new ads amounts to “abuse and exploitation of the Holocaust” and should be pulled from the air immediately, two Virginia Jewish leaders said Friday.

Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria and Tommy Baer, a Richmond attorney and former president of the B’nai Brith International, told reporters on a conference call that the former attorney general’s “Stanley” ad goes too far when it refers to Adolf Hitler.

The ad features Stanley Rosenbluth, whose son and daughter-in-law were murdered by Mark Sheppard in 1993. Sheppard was later convicted and executed.

Rosenbluth takes issue with Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine’s legal representation of Sheppard during his post-conviction appeals and the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful’s opposition to the death penalty on principle.

“Tim Kaine says that Adolf Hitler doesn’t qualify for the death penalty,” Rosenbluth says in the ads now running on television and radio stations around the state. “This was the worst mass murderer in modern times.”

Moline, Baer and other Jews take exception to the Hitler reference, the two told reporters on the call arranged by the Kaine campaign.

“I was astonished and astounded,” said Moline, calling on Kilgore to pull the ads and apologize to Kaine and Jews living in the commonwealth.

The ads are “campaign hyperbole at its absolute worst,” Baer said. The one that mentions Hitler “simply doesn’t belong in the public discourse.”

“This was designed to shock, and shock it did,” Baer said. “Abuse and exploitation of the Holocaust for base political purposes ... is sacrilege.”

Editorials that have called the ad “loathsome” are “much too mild,” added Moline.

But Rep. Eric Cantor, R-7th, the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress, said there’s a big difference between saying someone wouldn’t execute Hitler and saying someone is like Hitler.

“What is offensive to me is that Tim Kaine wouldn’t put Hitler to death,” Cantor said.

Rosenbluth wasn’t drawing a comparison between the Nazi dictator and anyone, the congressman added. Rather, he mentioned Hitler to show how extreme Kaine’s anti-death penalty position is, by saying that Kaine wouldn’t “put the ultimate killer to death.”

“In my opinion, [the Kaine campaign’s reaction] is nothing more than an attempt to distract from Tim Kaine’s record on the death penalty,” Cantor said.

Neither Baer nor Moline had any comment on the second death penalty ad, which features Kelly Timbrook, the widow of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky Timbrook. Both said they haven’t seen the ad.

Timbrook was shot and killed in 1999 by Edward Bell, who is now on death row.

Response ads by the Kaine campaign have criticized Kilgore for exploiting a widow’s grief, but Timbrook would have none of it.

“I’m surprised that Mr. Kaine would make such a claim,” Timbrook said. “I firmly stand by what I said.”

Kaine defended himself on Thursday, saying he spent a total of 48 minutes working on the Sheppard case, and would have signed the death warrant for the killer had he been governor at the time.

It’s unfair of Kilgore to attack Kaine for representing clients who have committed serious crimes, Baer said. Everyone deserves zealous representation. Strong advocates are what make justice possible.

“He has an absolute ethical obligation” to be an advocate for his clients, he said. “To be critical of Tim Kaine for that is demeaning to our profession.”

But Rosenbluth didn’t back down an inch from his statements in the ad.

“Mr. Kaine represented the man who murdered my son,” Rosenbluth said in an e-mail from Camp Kilgore to reporters. “I don’t care if he spent 30 minutes or 300 hours on the case.”

Jewish opposition to the ad has been slow to emerge, but not because of a lack of outrage, Moline said.

Wednesday evening and Thur-sday were Yom Kippur, the day of atonement and holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It would have been difficult to find Jews anywhere to talk about politics.

“Everybody was in synagogue,” he said, adding that he thought the release of the ad during the Days of Awe was a “conscious decision on the part of the Kilgore campaign.”

The release date “had everything to do with the fact that it was the middle of October and people are starting to pay more attention to the campaign,” countered Kilgore spokesman Tucker Martin.

Election Day is Nov. 8.