A Republican-leaning political action committee mailed a flyer to New Hampshire residents depicting what it called "Radical Islamic terrorists" with assault rifles and crosshairs over children and the American flag.
The flyer, mailed by the political action committee One Nation, has been accused of associating Muslims with violence by a civil liberties organization. The ad takes aim at Maggie Hassan, the current governor of New Hampshire and Democratic candidate for US Senate against Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte.
The flyer implies Hassan's support for the Iran nuclear deal could endanger Americans.
"Radical Islamic terrorists are knocking at our door...and Maggie Hassan's judgment could put our families at risk," one side of the flyer read, with a picture of a suburban home with an American flag in crosshairs.
Another part of the flyer shows two men with assault rifles wearing keffiyehs — a tradition middle-eastern headdress and scarf — in a way that covers their faces. Children are depicted through a gun sight with the words "Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to continue attacking America," above them.
“The mailing intentionally invokes the specter of terrorism and associates Muslims with violence against civilians in a clear attempt to sway voters using Islamophobia,” Dr. John Robbins, executive director of CAIR-Massachusetts, said in a statement.
“This group is obviously exploiting both the candidate’s Arab and Muslim-sounding name and the growing Islamophobic sentiment in our nation.”
Requests for comment to Senator Ayotte were not immediately returned, but a spokesperson for Hassan called the flyer "reprehensible."
“This is another reprehensible and baseless attack from Kelly Ayotte’s corporate special interest backers who will do anything to try to get her re-elected because she supports their agenda in Washington," said Jeff Crooks, deputy communications director for Hassan's Senate campaign, in an email to BuzzFeed News. "Ayotte’s allies should be ashamed of themselves."
The phrase "radical islamic terrorism" has become a central talking point in Donald Trump's presidential campaign — he claims that the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s refusal to say the phrase demonstrates their weakness on issues relating to terrorism.
"But what I have been careful about when I describe these issues is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful, who are responsible, who, in this country, are fellow troops and police officers and fire fighters and teachers and neighbors and friends," President Obama said in response to a question on why he did not use the phrase at a CNN town hall in September.
"If you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, 'We're on the vanguard of Christianity.' As a Christian, I'm not going to let them claim my religion and say, 'you're killing for Christ.' I would say, that's ridiculous," Obama also said at the town hall.
Sen. Ayotte, who has supported Trump in the past, including one instance where she called him a “role model,” has recently recanted her support, calling the role model comment a mistake in a recent interview with CNN. Sen. Ayotte also said that Clinton, too, is not a role model.
The PAC, One Nation, operates in eight states, primarily lobbying for Republican Senate candidates, according to its website. The PAC also appears to have been active as early as 2010, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan and nonprofit website that tracks federal campaign contributions.