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California GOP Candidate Ron Cohen Defends 9/11 Conspiracy Tweets

A Jewish Republican running to oust an incumbent Democratic congressman in Silicon Valley doubled down on several conspiratorial statements during a conversation with the Forward, including that Barack Obama’s children have different biological parents and that the 9/11 terror attacks were an inside job used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Cohen, who is endorsed by the Republican Party of California in his bid to defeat Rep. Ro Khanna, made several incendiary tweets Sept. 22 and 23, disparaging immigrants he says don’t assimilate and promoting a “theory” that Sasha and Malia Obama are really the children of their parents’ friends Dr. Anita Blanchard and businessman Martin Nesbitt.

“I have no idea for sure. How would I? My comment about it is, I don’t know about that, but take a look at Blanchard and Nesbitt and it sure makes a lot of issues difficult to reconcile,” Cohen told the Forward on Sept. 25.

Cohen described himself as libertarian. He speaks in a friendly tone and still has a hint of a Midwestern accent. He talks about most of his beliefs as just raising questions and points towards conspiracy groups like Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth to back up his claims.

The businessman and local Republican official claimed that he supported Obama in 2008 because of his “outrage” over the Iraq War, though he hoped that the candidate, who he described as “an articulate man and great speaker,” would be more centrist.

But as soon as he saw Obama’s victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park, Cohen said he noticed that Obama did not resemble his children.

“What bothers me is the level of deception of this young state senator to move up the political ladder,” Cohen said.

He then started to explore other conspiracies around the Obamas, including that Michelle is really transgender and Obama frequented gay bathhouses in Chicago, according to one tweet.

Cohen, who said he was raised in Chicago by Reform Jewish parents, also retweeted an anti-Muslim video posted by a German account connected to an anti-Semitic forum on Gab, the Twitter-like platform popular with white supremacists and the so-called “alt-right.”

“I love everybody,” Cohen said. He added that he shared the video without researching who initially posted it because “it’s a show a of domination to take over an area of the street.”

He added that some racial and ethnic “groups are saying ‘we’re just going to talk and do business amongst ourselves’ and that’s not pluralism.”

He then defended his views on the 9/11 attacks, claiming that “no steel tower has ever fallen as a result of fire.”

Though his district and California in general has become a Democratic stronghold, the state has still attracted extremist candidates. Most notably, Republican Holocaust denier John Fitzgerald garnered 23% of the district’s all-party primary vote in June, earning the right to take on Democrat incumbent Rep. Mark DeSaulnier in a district across the bay from San Francisco.

“As always, California Republicans reject anti-Semitism, and all forms of religious bigotry, in the harshest terms possible,” California Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte said in a May 29 statement. “We reject John Fitzgerald’s campaign and encourage all voters to do the same.” State party officials have said that they have a policy of automatically endorsing all Republicans who make the November election, though they are considering revising that rule in light of Fitzgerald and other cases.

Cohen also garnered 23% of the vote in his primary, though he admitted that he expected to lose the general election by a huge margin. In the meantime, he said he plans to warn people about our growing federal deficit “galloping exponentially forward.” He is so confident that he is going to lose, in fact, that his website urges people not to donate to him, but instead give a Republican candidate in a battleground district in Orange County.

Cohen said he doesn’t expect to expound more on his controversial beliefs.

“[I] may be out of my mind, delusional. I was so angry about he fact that [Obama] turned form center to hard, hard, hard left and then got eight years [in office],” Cohen added. “That was the context.”

Both the California Republican Party and the Alameda County Republican Party did not return an immediate request for comment. Khanna’s campaign also did not return a request for comment.

Contact Ben Fractenberg at fractenberg@forward.com or on Twitter, @fractenberg

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