A campaign ad that portrays a congressional candidate as Snooki from the “Jersey Shore” reality TV show is being slammed as a bigoted and a slap at Italian-Americans.
New Jersey Italian American Heritage Commission chairman Robert J. DiBiase wants Republican David Richter to pull his “Snooki ad” that compares rival Kate Gibbs to Nicole Polizzi, a controversial character personality on the show.
“You are equating an Italian-American candidate for Congress with a bigoted and repugnant TV show that portrayed Italian-American s as unlawful, uneducated fools,” DiBiase said in a letter sent to Richter and obtained by the New Jersey Globe.
Gibbs is Italian American.
DiBiase noted that former Gov. Chris Christie said that the show negatively stereotyped Italian-Americans.
“You are now repeating the same offense as part of a political campaign, and oddly you are doing so in a district with a large Italian-American demographic,” said DiBiase.
DiBiase also smacked Richter for airing an ad that he says portrays Ocean County in a negative way.
“Aside from the blatant bigotry you have displayed, you are also presenting a derogatory picture of Ocean County in general, which prides itself on a flourishing tourism industry that welcomes all visitors and offers exceptional vacation experiences,” DiBiase said. “Your ad is unduly hurtful not only to Italian-Americans but to every resident of this beautiful county.”
Richter has criticized Gibbs, a 34-year-old former Burlington County freeholder director, for being arrested when she was in her 20s.
His campaign uses a video that compares Gibbs’ legal issues to Polizzi: “Our Jersey shore values. Family. Community. Hard Work. Kate Gibbs? She’s more that Jersey Shore. Gibbs parties hard and she’s got the criminal record to prove it. Arrested multiple times. Public drinking. Caught with drugs. Even convicted of theft. Banned from Kohl’s for life. Sued nine times for not paying her bills. Jersey Shore was an embarrassment to our community. In Congress, Kate Gibbs would be too.”
Gibbs accepted responsibility for her actions.
“As a young woman, I made some poor choices, trusted the wrong people, experimented with pot, and did some immature things. It’s embarrassing and I’m not proud of it, but I won’t run from it either. I own this,” she said in a statement. “The mistakes I made then, helped me become who I am today: An independent, responsible, successful young woman who is running for Congress because we need more real, genuine people representing us in Washington.”
According to DiBiase, the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission “is not partisan and is not inserting itself into the politics of this race.”
“We are, however, fully committed to stopping this type of negative and prejudiced portrayal of an Italian-American candidate,” DiBiase said. We call upon you to remove this video ad from your campaign and not engage in such bigoted tactics in the future.”
Richter’s campaign manager, Tom Bonfonti, doubled down on the ad.
“We agree. Jersey Shore was offensive both to the Italian American community and to New Jersey. That is why Kate Gibbs’ reckless, criminal behavior is so reprehensible. She embarrassed herself and her community by acting just like the cast of “Jersey Shore” the television show instead of ‘Jersey Shore’ the community,” Bonfonti said. “Now Kate expects to be a Congresswoman? Sorry Kate, the people of South Jersey see right through your charade.”
Twenty years ago, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Corzine faced heavy criticism when the leaders of two Italian-American organization accused Corzine of telling off-color jokes about Italian-Americans.
Corzine issued an apology
This story was updated at 6:33 PM with comment from Bonfonti.