House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy posted and later deleted a tweet last week that suggested three Jewish, billionaire Democratic donors were attempting to "buy" the 2018 midterm elections.
"We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA," McCarthy wrote in the tweet posted Tuesday and deleted a day later, a reference to top donors to Democratic causes George Soros and Tom Steyer and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Twitter users quickly condemned McCarthy's claim, saying it was insensitive given the fact that it came just one day after authorities intercepted what appeared to be a pipe bomb sent to Soros' New York home.
On Friday, a suspicious package addressed to Steyer, a hedge fund manager who is leading a campaign to impeach President Donald Trump, was discovered in Burlingame, California, making him one of more than a dozen prominent political figures and critics of the President who were the intended recipients of suspicious packages, some carrying pipe bombs, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
McCarthy's communications director, Matt Sparks, said in a statement to CNN that he also gave to The Washington Post last week that McCarthy "has and will always condemn in the strongest possible way violence or any acts of attempted violence."
"Understanding the particular sensitivity of the past 24 hours in the political climate today that has led to specific threats on both sides of the aisle, we will redouble our focus on our agenda of results," he said.
Authorities believe the packages were sent by Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man who was charged on Friday with five federal crimes, including illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and others, and assaulting current and former federal officers.
Soros, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, is a frequent target of right-wing criticism over his support for liberal causes, and both Steyer and Bloomberg have been politically active of late.
In response to the discovery of a suspicious package addressed to him, Steyer called for Trump's impeachment.
In a tweet, Steyer wrote: "We're thankful that everyone we work with is safe. We are seeing a systematic attack on our democracy that extends much further than just one isolated terrorist in Florida. That's why we are running an impeachment petition to end the culture of lawlessness in our country."
Steyer has financed a high-profile campaign for the President's impeachment, using a series of national ad campaigns and town halls through his "Need to Impeach" organization to push his message. He had also pledged to spend up to $120 million in the 2018 midterms.
Bloomberg, who has been flirting with a potential run for president in 2020, has been making sizable donations to Democrats in an effort to help candidates around the country.
In early October, he announced that he was donating $20 million to a PAC that aims to flip the Senate. And earlier this year, he pledged to spend $80 million on Democratic congressional candidates. Last week, he put up another $10 million for ads for Democratic candidates in a last-minute effort to support the party ahead of next week's midterm elections.
McCarthy's tweet came days before a man opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, killing 11 people and injuring six others, including four police officers.
The alleged shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, surrendered to authorities after the Saturday morning shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. He made anti-Semitic statements during and after the shooting, and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official.
Responding to the shooting on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon, McCarthy called the attack "heinous" and said that it was "perpetrated by anti-Semitism and hate."
"May God's grace be with the victims and their families," he wrote.
Asked about McCarthy's tweet on Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg, California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is Jewish, said he wasn't sure what to make of it, but added that he thought the attacks on Soros in particular are driven by his Jewish faith.
"There are a lot of people (who) are generous to the Democratic Party," Schiff said. "The fact that he's become a symbol is not an accident. The fact that they're promulgating this falsehood that he's funding the caravan is an effort to give rebirth to this blood libel, that Jews are bringing impurity to the country, they're bringing other people to dilute the purity of the country.
"It's an ancient hatred," he continued. "And it's no accident that they have made George Soros the symbol of this. And you do see people, from the President on down, playing on this, candidates around the country playing on this."
Schiff added that anti-Semitic incidents rose sharply last year, citing figures from the Anti-Defamation League.
"(That) doesn't happen of its own. It happens because it's fed. And what will be necessary to overcome it is what the mayor was talking about," Schiff said, referring to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's plea for unity at a Sunday morning news conference on the mass shooting. "And that is, these are still a minority of repugnant voices, and they have to be drowned out by our common goodness."
Steyer said in an interview on the same program that he interpreted McCarthy's statement as "a straight-up anti-Semitic move. I think that that is a classic attempt to separate Americans. I think that absolutely falls into the category of what I'm describing as political violence. And I believe that what we are looking for in America is something completely different from that."