CNN  — 

Jason Lewis, a Republican running for US Senate in Minnesota, once said Republicans had “dual loyalties” to Israel, adding that support for the country was the result of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a “very strong American Jewish lobby.”

Lewis, who also argued that the Israel lobby controlled the Republican Party, said in a February 2013 radio show that many in the party viewed the country as the “51st state.” He claimed policymakers in President George W. Bush’s administration, including former UN Ambassador John Bolton, were dual citizens of Israel and the United States. (Bolton, who was fired last week by President Donald Trump, is neither Jewish, nor is he a citizen of Israel.)

“You’ve got a number of dual citizens, by the way, citizens of Israel and citizens of the United States serving in government,” Lewis said. “In any other country that might be seen as a problem, but it’s not here because of that special relationship.”

“John Bolton’s a dual citizen for instance of Israel and America,” Lewis added later. “There’s no question that there are a number in – during the Bush years – there were a number of dual citizens, citizens of Israel, citizens of America who were making policy.”

Lewis made his comments during the confirmation process of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who faced criticism for his use of the phrase “Jewish lobby” during an interview in 2006 to describe the lobbying power of pro-Israel groups. Lewis defended Hagel’s comments, adding that Republicans knew they would lose money from “AIPAC or Jewish Americans or Sheldon Adelson” if they voted for Hagel’s confirmation.

Asked for comment, Lewis blamed the focus on his past commentary on his opponents and “pawns in the partisan media.” He called the scrutiny “pathetic” and a “worn-out playbook of attacking my 25-year career as a political commentator – which naturally meant asking rhetorical questions, challenging audiences, playing devil’s advocate and seeing both sides of every issue.”

But on the substance of his views on Israel he drew a contrast between his criticism in 2013 and his voting record, during his one term in the US House of Representatives, saying “as my voting record clearly demonstrates, these are not my views about American support for Israel, period.” His campaign also forwarded along a fact sheet on his votes titled: Congressman Jason Lewis & the 115th Congress: Supporting the Israeli/U.S. Relationship.

Lewis also pivoted to criticize Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar saying she has “genuinely anti-Israel views.” Omar faced widespread condemnation, including from many fellow Democrats, earlier this year for comments similar to those Lewis made on his show.

The freshman Democrat tweeted that politicians’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” and said at an event, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Omar apologized for some of those comments, which the Anti-Defamation League said were “promoting the ugly, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews have an outsized influence over politics.” Her comments were seized upon by Republicans including President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who in turn have faced criticism of their own comments on Jewish Americans, money, loyalty and political influence.

Lewis too weighed in, accusing the congresswoman of “anti-Semitic rants” and “throwing our foreign allies under the bus,” adding in a radio interview in early September, “I don’t think the Jewish community is happy with Ilhan Omar at all. They’ve got every reason to be upset.”

CNN’s KFile reported last year that Lewis repeatedly made demeaning comments about women and those receiving on government assistance on his radio program, “The Jason Lewis Show,” which aired from 2009 until 2014. Lewis later defended some of those comments by saying being provocative was part of being on talk radio.

Lewis is one of two candidates currently seeking the Republican nomination and would face Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, who is running for a full term after winning a special election to fill the remainder of former Sen. Al Franken’s term in 2019.

Claimed Israel and Jewish lobby controlled the GOP

Lewis said on his radio show in 2013 he was speaking out on the issue because he believed the Republican Party was controlled by the Israel lobby.

“One of the reasons that I’m speaking out on this particular issue is not because I’m a big fan of Chuck Hagel,” Lewis said. “It’s not because I think that the Israeli lobby controls the country. There are plenty of Democrats or liberals that oppose them, but they do have, they do control of the Republican Party right now. The Republican Party is essentially a neo-conservative party that believes on unending support for Israel. A blind loyalty towards Israel is the linchpin of being a good Republican. And when you get those sort of dual loyalties, what happens if it’s not in America’s best interest?”

“I don’t think the Jewish lobby, the Israeli lobby controls America because there are plenty of opponents,” he later added. “I do believe, as I said, they are controlling the Republican party.”

Lewis later speculated that Republicans knew they would lose money from prominent Jewish organizations for supporting Hagel.

“I think Lindsey Graham and John McCain and every Republican, including Ted Cruz, know exactly how much money they will lose if they support Chuck Hagel from AIPAC or Jewish Americans or Sheldon Adelson for that matter,” Lewis added. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

Lewis said he did not subscribe to the idea “Jewish cabal” controlled the country, but said neo-Conservatives viewed Israel as the 51st state.

“Look, let me be clear about what I’m saying here. Is this nation controlled by a Jewish cabal? The Jewish banker theory? Of course not,” Lewis said. “Is the Republican Party, however, unduly influenced by AIPAC and the Israeli lobby? Of course they are. The neoconservatives in the Republican Party from John Bolton on down view Israel as a 51st state. And if you dare, dare not to support what Israel does, if you dare not support going to war with Iran – so Israel is safe – you are not only not a good Republican, not fit to be Secretary of Defense, you are an anti-Semite.”

Speaking on why the Republican Party supported Israel so strongly, Lewis said one reason was because of the influence of supporters.

“Contrary to what the punditry class said, AIPAC and a very, very strong American Jewish lobby,” he added. “I don’t say that as a negative. I mean, I think they’d been very proficient and they’re successful people and therefore they’ve got power in Washington.”