A Democratic congressional candidate in Nevada is coming out with claims that outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told him not to run because he is Muslim – an allegation Reid’s office categorically denies.
After Reid endorsed a rival in the race, Jordanian immigrant Jesse Sbaih told The Washington Post about the purported comments, which he said were made during a meeting they had at the Las Vegas casino Paris on Aug. 25 to discuss Sbaih’s run.
Reid, the candidate said, told him being Muslim would turn voters away and prevent him from winning.
But Reid’s office insists that simply didn’t happen.
“Reid told him he couldn’t win but that had nothing to do with his religion, this is now Jesse’s version of events,” Kristen Orthman, Reid’s spokesman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Orthman also accused Sbaih of trying to manufacture a controversy in order to “bolster his congressional race,” claiming he mentioned the senator in a fundraising email.
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The timing of Sbaih’s accusations has come into question.
Two weeks after the supposedly contentious meeting with Reid, Sbaih praised the senator on “Ralston Live” with Ron Ralston.
“I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with Senator Reid a few weeks ago,” Sbaih said during the interview. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Senator Reid. He’s a great Nevadan… It would be an honor to get his endorsement. He’s a great American. He’s been great for Nevada.”
But only recently has Sbaih spoken out about the claims Reid told him he could not win the race because he is Muslim.
The accusations started after Reid endorsed Sbaih’s rival Jacky Rosen, the president of a prominent synagogue in Las Vegas.
Sbaih is running in a competitive race for Republican Rep. Joe Heck’s seat. Seven Republicans and six Democrats have filed to run for the open seat.
Heck is running for Reid’s seat. Reid announced last year he would not be seeking re-election in 2016.
Sbaih maintains it isn't a political tactic and insists he was told to stand down.
“Basically, I was told I would not be able to win because of my religion and ethnicity,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I said, ‘I respectfully disagree with you.’ I believe in the goodness and the spirit of the American people. The American people have embraced me since I’ve been to this country and I’ve embraced them back as an adopted son.”
Sbaih added, “I think the quote was: ‘Let me be blunt, you’re not going to win the race because you’re a Muslim.’”
Calls to Reid and Sbaih by FoxNews.com were not returned.