Tapping into the unsettled debate over Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day, two Republicans running for Congress, 3rd district candidate Bob Healey Jr. and 5th district candidate Frank Pallotta, trashed their Democratic opponents this morning for purportedly disrespecting Italian Americans.
Healey, who’s running against two-term Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), took aim at Kim’s decision last year to post a “Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!” message on Facebook.
“It is extremely regrettable that last year, when Congressman Kim was not up for reelection, he jumped on the woke bandwagon in seeking to replace [Columbus Day] with ‘Indigenous People’s Day,’” Healey said. “Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with celebrating Native Americans with their own national holiday – the problem is with those like Andy Kim who wish to re-write or worse erase history and effectively pit one group against another.”
Pallotta, meanwhile, tweeted in commemoration of “Christopher Columbus’s discovery of our great country” and linked to a statement from his 2020 campaign slamming Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) for a graphic that Pallotta said was anti-Italian; the graphic shadowed Pallotta’s face in a way that he claimed made him look like a “mob boss.”
“We live in times in which the Italian American community is directly under attack, as can be seen with the recent trend of ripping down statues of Christopher Columbus nationwide,” surrogates for Pallotta’s campaign said in 2020. “We are neither rapists nor pillagers. We are not mobsters.”
Indigenous Peoples’ Day originated in 1992, when the California city of Berkeley chose to celebrate it as a counter to Columbus Day. Since then, the holiday has become a rallying cry among those who want to highlight Native American history and draw attention to Columbus’ devastating impact on indigenous peoples.
But many Italian American groups have pushed back, saying that the new holiday erases the country’s original Italian American, and Republicans like former President Donald Trump jumped on the controversy as a way to fight against Democratic “wokeness.”
So far this year, neither Gottheimer nor Kim has released a statement mentioning either holiday. At least three prominent New Jersey Democrats, Gov. Phil Murphy and Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), have wished their social media followers a happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, though Murphy split the difference and also commemorated Columbus Day in a separate post.