Elections

Children of Mo. candidate who espouses anti-Semitism have a message: don’t vote for him

Emily West has a message for voters in Missouri House District 15.

Don’t vote for her dad.

“I can’t imagine him being in any level of government,” she told The Star on Monday.

Her dad is Steve West, 64, the Republican candidate for the Missouri General Assembly who made headlines after winning the GOP primary in August when word spread about his radio show and website through which he regularly espoused an array of bigotry including homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and outright racism.

“A lot of his views are just very out there,” Emily West said. “He’s made multiple comments that are racist and homophobic and how he doesn’t like the Jews.”

On Tuesday, her brother contacted The Star to say that he, too, was concerned about their father’s candidacy.

“My dad’s a fanatic. He must be stopped,” said Andy West, the middle of Steve West’s three children. “His ideology is pure hatred. It’s totally insane.

“If he gets elected, it would legitimize him. Then he would become a state official, and he’s saying that Jews shouldn’t even have civil rights.”

Both said their concerns were heightened when they recently drove through the Clay County House district — which covers Gladstone and a part of Kansas City, North — and saw lots of yard signs in support of their father.

“I think it’s just insane that people are putting out his signs,” Emily West said. “You see his signs everywhere. I don’t understand how people can put out his signs knowing the comments that he’s made.”

Anti-Semitism is again dominating the headlines after 11 people were killed Saturday in a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that is being called the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U. S. history. Authorities said the gunman told a SWAT officer after he was shot and captured that “I just want to kill Jews.” The accused shooter appeared to have an extensive anti-Semitic social media profile, posting one threatening message just minutes before the attack.

West denounced the shooting on Monday, and said some of his comments in recent months have been taken out of context.

“I absolutely renounce what took place there,” he said. “I have never, never suggested anything like that. When stuff like that happens, it is a terrible travesty and injustice. I would never condone any violence against any people because of a specific race or religion or anything else.”

Andrew West said his father was not the type to commit violence.

“But certainly the terrorist that engaged in that synagogue shooting and my father have the same objective,” he said. “That objective is the removal of Jews from America. And certainly, if somebody who is already unstable gets the kind of message that he’s preaching, it’s all bad.”

Karen Aroesty, regional director of ADL Heartland, said those who espouse hateful rhetoric bear some responsibility when violence erupts.

“I think anybody who’s willing to make hate public and willing to state formally and be out there with their hate-based identity, they’d better be accountable to how people respond to them,” she said. “When you put it out there, you have to know that you’re accountable in society today, and given the capacity of the internet to move information so fast, you’re going to be influencing people far beyond your neighborhood.”

Does West belong in the General Assembly?

“If somebody who is on the record as being hateful toward groups of people who they might represent if elected, is that something that society wants?” Aroesty said. “I would question how they make public policy for an entire constituency. But people are going to have to make that choice. I can’t make that choice for them.”

The Missouri Republican Party issued a statement in August saying that West’s “shocking and vile comments do not reflect the position of the Missouri Republican Party or indeed of any decent individual.”

“West’s abhorrent rhetoric has absolutely no place in the Missouri Republican Party or anywhere. We wholeheartedly condemn his comments.”

West told The Star on Monday that he is “absolutely not anti-Semitic.”

“I subscribe to our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal,” he said. “I don’t judge anyone by race or the color of their skin. I look at ideologies and I object to things on principle. It has nothing to do with skin color or race.”

Of his radio show, called “The Hard Truth with Jack Justice,” West said: “Some of the issues I discuss are hard-hitting. All of my shows are well documented. At the end of every show, I call everyone to Christ and Christianity, because that’s the only answer.”

On his show that aired Oct. 15, West discussed the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, complaining that the United States has been “loving on these people.”

“This is the kind of relationship that we have with Israel,” he said. “We have this alliance, but it’s not a reciprocal alliance... for Israel, it’s what can they get out of it.” He added: “They have been running this assault on America. They have been giving us gay marriage, pornography, abortion, everything that’s anti-Christian…This is what they do. This is how they corrupt a Christian nation, because they are an anti-Christ people.”

Rep. Jon Carpenter, the Democratic incumbent running against West, said Monday that many people supporting West may not know what he stands for.

“Mr. West has engaged in the most radical and hateful anti-Semitism and bigotry that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The events of the weekend were a tragedy. Clearly, hate and bigotry are on the rise in this country and it’s up to each of us to do our part to stand up against that.”

Carpenter said West’s ideologies “are way out of line with the values, not only of our local community, but our country.”

“I’m deeply disturbed by his candidacy,” he said, “and it’s my hope that the voters of the 15th District overwhelmingly reject that kind of bigotry on election day.”

Emily West said though her father “has always been kind of radical and out there,” his views have become more extreme in recent years.

She said her father’s actions have caused a rift between him and his children. The last time they talked, she said, was a couple of days after the August primary. West received about as many votes as the three other GOP candidates combined.

“I asked him to drop out and said, ‘I think it’s a really bad idea that you’re running and I don’t think this is going to end well for you,’” she said. “And he told me that this is what his life has been about and that everything in his life has come to this moment and it’s the most important thing. And I said, ‘OK, then I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want you to be a part of my life.’ And I haven’t talked to him since.”

West blames his ex-wife for his children’s attitudes toward him.

“I had a toxic divorce from my ex-wife and she’s poisoned my kids, and I have to live with that,” he said. “I’m sorry that she’s decided to make a political issue that doesn’t need to be.”

West said he thinks he has a good shot at being elected.

“I have a good reputation,” he said. “These people are trying to paint me as some monster. But I have been in this community for a long time. A lot of people know me, and they don’t have those experiences with me. There’s a good chance I’m going to win.”

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