Hirsh Singh’s disputatious campaign manager recorded a staged confrontation with the wife of another candidate during Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial debate. But Melinda Ciattarelli showed some quintessential Jersey attitude and threw punches back at King Penna.
Ciattarelli was in a private room watching her husband debate Singh when Penna, accompanied by someone holding a camera, launched an attack on Jack Ciattarelli and their children.
While Singh was being characterized in the debate as a 36-year-old Peter Pan-like character who still lived at home with his parents, Penna was questioning Melinda Ciattarelli about why their four adult children are still living at home.
“Why don’t you throw your kids out of the house,” Penna asked.
“My kids are out of the house,” she answered. “My son, he’s in the Army, you idiot.”
Penna said that some of Ciattarelli’s children are still registered to vote at their Hillsborough home.
“One of them is at Montclair State,” Ciattarelli said. “Is that not in New Jersey, you imbecile?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Penna told her. “The only imbecile is you.”
But Ciattarelli wasn’t taking any crap from Penna.
“You’re an arrogant asshole,” she told him.
Penna appeared to look at the camera from time to time, as if he knew he was part of an ambush.
Within a few minutes, staff from New Jersey 101.5 appeared to escort Ciattarelli to another room.
“This man is obnoxious,” Ciattarelli told them. “I was sitting here and he’s attacking my husband.
“I’ve got it on video,” Penna said. “This is going to look very well on Facebook. I’m putting it on Facebook.
The chair of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women called on Singh to denounce Penna’s behavior.
“Spirited debates between candidates are a good thing,” said Angelique Scholl. “But I was horrified this morning when I watched that during the debate the Singh campaign barged into Mrs. Ciattarelli’s green room to launch a pre-planned and secretly recorded verbal assault on their opponent’s wife.”
The New Jersey Globe has learned that New Jersey 101.5 had deliberately separated the two camps – and while the Ciattarelli campaign staff was kept outside, it’s not immediately clear how Penna and his cameraman made it into a room set up for Ciattarelli to watch her husband debate.
“That Singh supporters have since tried to use the incident to publicly embarrass Mrs. Ciattarelli is even more offensive,” Scholl said. “Conveniently clipped from the post circulated online by Singh supporters this morning was his campaign operative’s initial obscenity-ridden tirade against not only Mrs. Ciattarelli’s husband, but also her family and her children – including a son on active duty in the military.”
Scholl applauded Ciattarelli for her response.
“She had every right to go back at Mr. Penna and put him in his place,” stated Scholl. “Some of our members I spoke to this morning said they would have needed to be restrained.”
Calling Penna’s actions a “cowardly attack,” Scholl wants Singh to apologize to Ciattarelli and her family.
“Hirsh knew what he was getting when he hired Penna,” she said. “No one should be surprised given Hirsh’s own past of slandering women online, joking about rape, and calling women bitches.”