(RNS) — Paul Nehlen, a Republican hoping to oust Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in the Wisconsin primaries this summer, got some creative blowback from the Twitterverse after publishing a long list of "Jews" he said attacked him.
"I’ve compiled a list of 'verified' Twitter users who have attacked me *in just the last month alone* for my #AmericaFirst positions," Nehlen tweeted Tuesday (Jan. 30) morning. "Of those 81 people, 74 are Jews, while only 7 are non-Jews. Here is the list:"
What followed were three columns of Twitter users and their handles followed by the labels "Jewish" or "Non-Jewish." Later, he published their emails and other contact information.
One problem: Many of the 70-plus journalists, commentators and gadflies he thought he was outing were not Jewish. But the swarm of tweets they and others unleashed in response to Nehlen — who has used anti-Semitic memes in his campaign — provided a stinging rebuke.
"I see you have me on this list," New York magazine and HuffPost writer Yashar Ali tweeted. "I'm not Jewish...I'm a practicing Roman Catholic. But I'm in some pretty good company on this list...so feel free to say I'm Jewish."
For good measure, Ali added, "Also my name in Hebrew means 'straight' but I'm not, so if you're going to do a gay list please add me..I'm single."
Nehlen's post quickly went viral, along with calls to report his account as offensive. Late Wednesday, Nehlen posted a message he received from Twitter that said it investigated reports against his tweet but that it was taking no action.
Twitter suspended Nehlen's account for seven days earlier this month for other remarks deemed offensive.
At the same time that people were sharing the list — some in outrage, some in support — others were issuing tweets in a sort of ad hoc social media campaign against anti-Semitism and hate.
"I am Jewish and delighted that so many of the chosen are on this list and annoying the hell out of this anti-Semite," Twitter user Naomi Bloom tweeted.
"I'm a little jealous tbh (to be honest) that some of my non-Jewish friends made the list, and I'm sitting here all Jewish... And bupkes," Elizabeth Picciuto, a philosophy professor, said.
"Well isn’t that nice, he put together a list of people I should be following," a Twitter user named MegSF said.
The Nehlen-Ali tweet exchange also brought out support from members of the faith community.
"(L)et me take this moment to invite you to my parish if you are ever in NY," a Twitter user named @playingwithu wrote to Ali. "Our Prayers of the Faithful each week are beautiful odes to inclusion and love of all and our pastor’s homilies will make you feel honored to have heard them."
Diana B. Henriques, an author and contributor to The New York Times, tweeted to Ali: "You restored my faith in wit, perspective, and sanity. (Hippy-dippy Episcopalian, here, btw. But hubby's Jamaican ancestors were Jewish. Does that count?)
Calls and emails to Nehlen's campaign went unanswered. By Wednesday morning, he sent an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explaining his tweets.
"I didn't single out people who are Jewish," Nehlen wrote. "I clearly posted a list of Jews and non-Jews to show the relative differences in the intensity of attacks from 2% of the population, who have attacked my America First positions in one month. The list is truthful."
He added, "The list stems from a BuzzFeed article that used my phrase 'Jewish media' as a slur, when in fact, it was a truthful statement. Consequently, I felt it was pertinent to lay the facts out and let the public decide."
Twitter famously purged accounts it deemed offensive and hateful in December, banning Jayda Fransen of the far-right Britain First, and Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, a white supremacist publication. Alt-right leader Richard Spencer was banned in November but is back.
Attempts to reach Twitter for a comment about Nehlen's post were unsuccessful.
Nehlen also challenged Ryan for his seat in 2016 and lost by a margin of nearly 70 points.