Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenDemocrats quietly explore barring Trump from office over Jan. 6 Progressives win again: No infrastructure vote Thursday Liberals defy Pelosi, say they'll block infrastructure bill MORE (D-Tenn.) said his suspicions that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE would use his address to Congress last week to bolster his own reelection campaign have come true.
The Israeli Likud Party, which Netanyahu leads, released a campaign advertisement Thursday that includes footage from Netanyahu's speech to Congress last week. Members of Congress are shown applauding as Netanyahu speaks at the House dais.
Cohen, who is Jewish, was among the more than 50 Democrats who skipped Netanyahu's speech. The Tennessee Democrat said he suspected Netanyahu would use the footage for campaign ads ahead of the Israeli elections next week, given that he had done so in the past.
“I had hoped this prediction might have had a chilling effect and caused the prime minister to reconsider before using Congress as a campaign backdrop. Instead, my fears have been realized," Cohen said in a statement.
Cohen noted that members of Congress are banned from using congressional proceedings for their own campaign ads, arguing a foreign leader should be held to the same standard.
"The use of Congressional proceedings in campaign ads is prohibited for members of Congress, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s predictable use of this footage is one of several reasons I did not attend his speech. I am saddened that Congress is once again being turned into theater and that the prime minister made our Capitol into a studio for his political ads, complete with teleprompters and a live studio audience," Cohen concluded.
Netanyahu denied that his speech was meant to bolster his reelection prospects in Israel. The prime minister focused on criticizing the international negotiations over Iran's nuclear program during his remarks, but addressed the controversial nature of his appearance shortly after stepping up to the microphone.
"I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention," Netanyahu said.