Both the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club and the Arab American Institute issued statements on Wednesday calling on Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey to return a campaign contribution from a resident who posted online content they deemed homophobic and racist.
However, the donor in question, Andrew Terhune, told NinetyNine that his posts were nothing more than attempts to spark a debate among his Facebook friends, and that he’s neither homophobic nor anti-Arab.
Bailey did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday, but Joseph J. DeFelice, executive director of the Philadelphia Republican Party, did.
“It’s a ridiculous story,” he said. “If they’re going to start with this kind of thing, maybe we should pull all the Facebook and Twitter posts of [Democratic mayoral candidate Jim] Kenney donors starting with Herb Vederman and work our way back from there.”
In an email to local media outlets, Liberty City attached screengrabs of Facebook updates from January and June in which Terhune asked “Does marriage equality include the right to marry one’s child or sibling?” and stated “Taking bets on when it’s a constitutional right for polygamy.”
The statement from Liberty City Board Member Cameron Kline stated, “Melissa Murray Bailey’s decision to accept a campaign donation, in the maximum amount allowable by law, from a donor who repeatedly posted homophobic statements online calls into question her core values.
“If she is sincere in her support of gay marriage, she should return the donation to the man who claimed that the Supreme Court decision paved the way for legalized polygamy and incest.”
Marwan Kreidie, executive director of the Philadelphia Arab-American Development Corp., said his group and the Arab American Institute took umbrage at a “video promoting racist opinions and violence against Arab Americans and American Muslims.”
Her biggest donor is Andrew Terhune, a senior business analyst for the Toll Brothers. Bailey didn’t know Terhune personally at the time he made the maximum $2,900 contribution to her campaign after hearing her speak at an Republican party event in April.
“This blatant act of fear-mongering is dangerous and it has no place in the political discourse of Pennsylvania or anywhere in the U.S.,” said Kreidie, who also called on the candidate to return the donation.
Citing “anti-Arab bigotry and Islamophobia [which] have historically materialized during political election cycles,” he also called on the candidate to sign a Pledge to Combat Bigotry which Kenney has already done and Bailey has told NinetyNine she gladly would.
The donor responds
Terhune, whose Facebook page stated he attended Tuesday’s Melissa Murray Bailey for Mayor Fundraiser in Roxborough and whose LinkedIn profile shows past ties to the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, said that he “did not express an opinion” in the aforementioned posts.
“The nice thing about this country is that everybody is entitled to their opinion,” he said. “If that’s their opinion, that’s fine, and what Melissa does is up to her, but I’m not embarrassed about anything I posted.”
“I don’t think it’s offensive to anyone. I was trying to spark a debate. In politics, people try to make mountains out of mole hills. … If they’re telling you I’m homophobic, ask them to talk to my two gay nephews, or one of my groomsmen who is gay, and see what they tell you. If they want to start playing games and throwing ad hominem attacks, that’s kind of low.”
This scuttlebutt comes a week after Kenney returned donations after a fundraising solicitation from a city worker banned from doing so was exposed. The Kenney campaign also reported itself to city Board of Ethics.
UPDATE: On Thursday, DeFelice issued a statement claiming Kline, who emailed Liberty City’s statement out a day earlier, violated “ethics rules” in doing so. It reads, in part:
“Mr. Kline is the current communications director and spokesman for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office and District Attorney Seth Williams, this is a violation of the ethics code of that office and if the City Charter which covers employees of the District Attorney’s Office, which bans serving on partisan political boards or participating in certain partisan political activity.”
According to a post by WHYY’s Dave Davies, Kline will meet with Ethics Board staffers on Monday.