A Democratic House candidate running in Nevada says Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidCabinet picks boost 2018 Dems Franken emerges as liberal force in hearings GOP eyes new push to break up California court MORE (D-Nev.) told him he shouldn't run because he is a Muslim.
"On August 27th, I was told by Harry Reid: 'Let me be blunt, you are not going to be able to win because you are a Muslim,'" Jesse Sbaih wrote in an email to supporters Tuesday, which was also posted on the Daily Kos.
Sbaih, a lawyer and immigrant from Jordan, is running for Nevada's 3rd District. His accusations were first reported by The Washington Post.
Reid's staffers quickly denied the outgoing Senate Democratic leader made the comment, while acknowledging he met with Sbaih in August.
"They met, but Senator Reid never said that," Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Reid, told The Hill. "Jesse is using Senator Reid's name to seek his 15 minutes of fame."
While Reid did say he thought Sbaih couldn't win, she said it wasn't because of his religion.
"There were a number of different factors," she added, including that he wasn't well-known in the district and had never run for political office before.
Orthman stressed that Sbaih was unable to provide direct evidence to support his allegations to the Post or The Associated Press.
The Post also reported that an aide for Reid's office later suggested he should apply for a position on the Election Assistance Commission.
Sbaih, in the email to supporters, said it was an attempt to "muscle me out of the race and to DC. I respectfully declined the offer."
Orthman rejected this characterization. As part of the August meeting, she said Reid encouraged him to run for a state government office or apply for an important commission.
"He himself asked us to look out for opportunities to be involved," she said, noting that they encouraged a handful of others to apply for the commission.
Sbaih suggested in the email to supporters that since he turned down the federal job, he's been "hindered from hiring staff and regular Democratic donors have been told that they should not support our campaign."
Sbiah also defended his decision to go public with the allegations approximately seven months after the meeting took place, telling the AP that it wasn't related to publicity or trying to raise money for his campaign.
"We will win because people know, like they knew with John Kennedy, that a person is more than where they were born, who they pray to, or the color of their skin," he wrote in the email to supporters, referring to skepticism about Kennedy's candidacy at the time because he was Catholic.
Posts on the campaign's Facebook page Tuesday about the allegations urged supporters to donate.