POLITICS
07/19/2017 11:08 am ET Updated Jul 19, 2017

GOP Senator Defends Democratic Opponent Hit By Anti-Muslim Attacks

"Sorry you have to put up with this," Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) rose above partisanship to decry the Islamophobic vitriol his potential Democratic opponent, Deedra Abboud, has been slammed with in recent days.

post published Tuesday on Abboud’s official Facebook account about how the government should be free of religious overreach incited an onslaught of hateful comments toward Abboud, who is Muslim.

One man called her a “towel headed piece of shit.” Another told her to “get out stinking Muslim.” Yet another compared Allah to Satan.

Late on Tuesday, Flake apologized for the nastiness Abboud was being subjected to:

Abboud replied with an appreciative tweet a few hours later.

Flake is up for re-election in 2018. Arizona hasn’t had a Democratic senator since 1995. 

Abboud, 45, has already announced her candidacy in Arizona’s Democratic primary, to be held in August 2018. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, she is an attorney and head of a Phoenix-based consulting firm who moved to Arizona in 1998.

“When 9/11 shook our country to the core, I became an advocate,” Abboud said when announcing her campaign. “Not just because Muslims were facing anger and fearmongering, but because I am an American. Because I have always believed in our compassion and our strength in our country that can come together.”

Abboud is accustomed to anti-Muslim hatred and decided to run for office in part to expose it and jump-start a national conversation, she told HuffPost. “I went into this campaign with my eyes wide open; it’s exactly what I was inviting, and I wanted this to come out.”

Islamophobic backlash came in a steady stream for about two weeks after Abboud announced her candidacy and then died down for a while, she added, until she held an event at a vegan restaurant and white supremacist groups attacked her supporters online and at the event.

“We asked the police to allow them to stay for an hour so they could have freedom of speech and we showed them that we would not back down,” she said.

Although surprised, Abboud said she appreciated Flake’s tweet. “That made me proud to be an Arizonan, that’s true leadership.”

This story has been updated with comment from Deedra Abboud.

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