‘You’re a jackass!’ Singh manager ripped by Murphy, Republicans and 101.5’s Jeff Deminski
Here's something Democrats and Republicans in New Jersey can agree on: Don't attack a candidate's family.
Republican gubernatorial contender Hirsh Singh is facing increasing pressure to apologize or fire his campaign manager, who was recorded in his confrontation with rival Jack Ciattarelli's wife during the gubernatorial debate Tuesday at the New Jersey 101.5 studios.
It's not clear from the video that the Hirsh campaign circulated online who started the confrontation but Ciattarelli's wife, Melinda, appears to have ended it.
Since Wednesday, Republicans across the state have piled on King Penna, demanding that Singh – who has tried to differentiate himself in the four-way race as the Trump die-hard — take action.
Gov. Phil Murphy also weighed in, calling the episode a "new low."
"Attacking a political opponent's family is appalling and disgraceful. Hirsh Singh should immediately apologize to the Ciattarellis," Murphy said on Twitter.
Singh manager calls NJ 101.5 to defend himself
Penna tried to defend himself by calling into New Jersey 101.5's Deminski & Doyle show, claiming that the video that his own campaign released didn't show the whole encounter.
"I was sitting in the chair," Penna said Friday afternoon.
"You instigated it and you know it," co-host Jeff Deminski replied. "What you did was pathetic and you're trying to dig yourself out of this and making yourself even more pathetic."
"Why involve the wife at all, though?" co-host Bill Doyle added.
"She was in my face," Penna said.
"That was after you were being a huge jackass to her," Deminski countered, adding that Penna should "be a man" and put the rest of the video on the campaign website.
The encounter between Melinda Ciattarelli and Penna happened in New Jersey 101.5's lounge, where Ciattarelli's wife had been sitting to watch the debate on a screen. Penna and his videographer later joined her in the room.
Video of Melinda Ciatterelli and King Penna encounter
Warning: This contains numerous uses of profanity:
The video begins with Ciattarelli calling Singh "a loser."
Penna then accuses her of not voting in previous elections and asks her why "don’t you throw your kids out of the house." For context, Ciattarelli's camp has made hay out of the fact that Singh still lives with his parents.
"My kids are out of the house, thank you very much," Ciattarelli replies. "My son is in the Army, you idiot … One of them is in Montclair State. Is that not in New Jersey, you imbecile?"
"The only imbecile is you," he says.
"You’re an arrogant a--hole," she retorts.
"You're very ladylike, I can tell," Penna says.
"Thank you very much," she says. "You know what, when pigs like you come into the picture then it has to be this way."
Two station staffers who heard the confrontation then invited Ciattarelli to finish watching the debate in a private office.
The station allowed each candidate to invite up to two people into the building. Nobody was asked to leave.
Reaction to the Penna-Ciattarelli incident
Singh backers have tried to blame the altercation on Ciatterelli's wife but many are not buying it.
Jose Arango, the chairman of the New Jersey Republican Chairs Association, said all 21 GOP chairmen "strongly condemn the vile actions taken by Hirsh Singh and his campaign" during the debate and called on Singh "to apologize to the Ciattarelli family and to all New Jersey Republicans for the despicable actions taken by his embarrassment of a campaign."
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, called Penna's conduct "outrageous and shameful," saying the Singh should fire him immediately.
"I was absolutely horrified when I watched this video and know that these types of attacks on women are far too common in politics," she said.
Phil Rizzo, one of the four GOP gubernatorial candidates but one of the two who did not qualify for Tuesday's debate, said Singh should fire his manager.
"Every second that goes by, NJ women voters should be appalled that Hirsh would have someone like this leading his campaign," Rizzo said on Twitter.
Jack Ciattarelli also had a response to what happened: "Proud of my wife."
Sergio Bichao is the digital managing editor of New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email email@example.com.