Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, running for his fifth re-election on Tuesday, is under fire for a campaign advertisement that several prominent politicians and his opponent say is antisemitic.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey tweeted to condemn the message and endorse Hodgson’s opponent, Paul Heroux, the current mayor of Attleboro.
“Tom Hodgson’s racist and antisemitic dog whistles are appalling,” Warren tweeted Wednesday morning. “So is his office’s record of mistreating people in its care and custody. Bristol County: vote for @PaulHeroux for sheriff for new leadership.”
In the 30-second video campaign tweeted Monday evening, Hodgson said, “Everyday cities such as New York and Chicago have been taken over by violent criminals because politicians supported by George Soros and his followers don’t believe that criminals should be in jail.”
George Soros, a prominent Jewish billionaire, philanthropist, and Holocaust survivor who often funds left-leaning political causes, has been subject to antisemitic conspiracies from right-wing circles for years, according an Anti-Defamation League report. The conspiracy theories often perpetuate enduring myths that “rich and powerful Jews work behind the scenes, plotting to control countries and manipulate global events,” according to the report.
“We know what the dog whistle of antisemitism sounds like. It’s hateful and has no place in our society, let alone on a debate stage,” Markey tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Let’s elect @PaulHeroux for Sheriff, for real public safety leadership in Bristol County.”
Holly Robichaud, a spokesperson for the Hodgson campaign, said the politicians calling Hodgson names “would make any false accusation to try to defeat the sheriff.”
“These claims against the sheriff are wrong and desperate,” Robichaud said.
Heroux said he is alarmed by the antisemitism in contemporary political and societal discourse.
“It is disappointing that antisemitism has also popped up in this race, although not surprising considering the incumbent’s involvement with hate groups such as FAIR [Federation for American Immigration Reform] and PAN [Protect America Now],” Heroux said.
Hodgson is on the advisory committee of Protect America Now, listed as an anti-government group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit organization. He’s also on the national board of advisors of Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a hate group with a mission to severely limit immigration to the US, with ties to white supremacists.
Other politicians also spoke out against Hodgson’s recent campaign video.
“Blatant racism and antisemitism,” former congressman Joe Kennedy III tweeted Tuesday evening. “Worst of all, this is par for the course for Bristol Co’s sheriff. Enough. Go vote.”
Hodgson’s advertisement comes at a time when Jewish communities in Massachusetts and across the nation feel particularly vulnerable.
The rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has broadcast antisemitic remarks on social media in recent weeks. According to an Oct. 10 NBC News report, Ye tweeted “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” an apparent reference to the US defense readiness condition scale known as DEFCON.
Ye has since been banned from Twitter, according to the report, but his celebrity status and large social media following has already inspired hate groups to act. For instance, on Oct. 24, an antisemitic group in Los Angeles hung a banner over a freeway reading ‘Kanye is right about the Jews,’ according to another NBC News report.
Locally, paper swastikas were found on the lawn of a Jewish family’s home in Stoneham Tuesday morning.
Representative Katherine Clark, who represents Massachusetts’s 5th district and is the assistant House Democratic leader, released a statement condemning Hodgson’s advertisement and the recent attack on the Stoneham family.
“I am horrified by the anti-Semitic attack against a family in Stoneham. This was just days after Bristol County Sheriff Hodgson released an anti-Semitic campaign ad. His shameful campaign promotes hate and is exactly how violence escalates,” Clark said in the statement. “These incidents are a chilling reminder of the anti-Semitism proliferating in the Commonwealth and our nation. If we are going to heal the division in this country, we must stand together against hate in all forms and those who promote it.”
Heroux has since retweeted the endorsements from Markey and Warren, and other politicians. Should Heroux be elected in this year’s competitive county sheriff’s race, it would put an end to Hodgson’s 25 years in the position.
I condemn Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson’s racist and antisemitic dog whistles that are contrary to public safety, and a threat to vulnerable groups. Hodgson has already shown he has a record of mistreating people in his custody. I’m proud to support @PaulHeroux for Sheriff https://t.co/04STYuwc0H— Jamie Eldridge (@JamieEldridgeMA) November 2, 2022