By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Sigal Chattah, the Republican nominee for attorney general, defended her statement that Democratic incumbent Aaron Ford “should be hanging from a crane” Wednesday on Nevada Newsmakers, saying that as a woman of Yemeni Jewish heritage, she was only comparing him to a corrupt leader of the militant Palestinian movement, Hamas.
She also denied Ford’s assertion that the remark was racist. Ford is black and has said where he is from, it is racist to threaten black people with lynching.
Chattah noted Yemini Jews are looked down upon, even in Israel. Hamas is considered hostile and dangerous by the state of Israel and the statement was made in that context.
“To accuse me of being racist is ridiculous,” she told host Sam Shad. “And let’s talk about the comment, in and of itself. The comment was made comparing him to a leader of Hamas because that is what they do to traitors.”
She said the statement was “not necessarily tongue-in-cheek,” but added:
“Getting into race wars with me would not be wise because Aaron Ford stood by BLM (Black Lives Matter) and didn’t denounce the fact that they were carrying signs (that read) “From the river to the sea,’ which we all know what it means to Israelis and it means to wipe Israel off of the map,” she said.
Chattah was asked about her comments at various times during the interview.
“Again, I addressed the racist thing,” she said at one point. “It wasn’t racist. People don’t hang people from cranes in the United States.”
Chattah was born in Israel in 1975, and immigrated to Nevada with her family when she was 14 years old, according to her campaign website. She said the Hamas comparison was made because both Hamas and Ford’s administration of the attorney general’s office are corrupt.
“He (Ford) has demonstrated over and over, the level of corruption that we see warranted a comparison to a leader of Hamas,” she said. “Remember, this conversation all stems from the fact that he opposed ESAs (education savings accounts), OK?
“This is somebody that was being high and mighty off of money that he’s made,” Chattah said of Ford. “The guy has five degrees. He is the poster child for academics in this country and all he does is flaunt his success.
“When we look at the underprivileged, the demographic that he says he serves, these people are functionally illiterate, so when I compare him to a leader of Hamas, that is precisely how leaders of Hamas live,” said Chattah, a graduate of Las Vegas’ Valley High and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Chattah then referenced her own early education.
“I went to school in Switzerland,” she said of her life before moving to Las Vegas. “I went to school with Saudis, I went to school with people of Dubai, where the literacy rate in Arab nations is so low but again, their leaders, they all send their kids to school in Switzerland.
“And it is the same thing with Aaron Ford,” Chattah continued. “And I think it is great that Aaron Ford’s kids get to go to GW, (George Washington University) and get to go to these high (lofty) schools. But at the end of the day, what about the children that he’s supposed to serve in under-served communities? And that is where that conversation comes from. That’s why that comment was made.”
Ford has said that he would not debate Chattah or be “standing in the same room with her” because of her “hanging” comment. She called his response “a red herring.”
“I think he is a lot more concerned about having to stand in a room with me and having me ask him why his former partner (Eglet Prince law firm, now Eglet Adams) got a monopoly on the opioid litigation …” she said. “I think there are a lot more issues he would have to address as a top prosecutor of the state if he was standing in a room with me.”
Chattah suspicious of Ford & his former law firm
Chattah has been highly critical of the fact that Ford’s former law firm was chosen to lead the state in litigation that produced two settlements with drug manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic.
About 1,300 Nevadans died from accidental drug overdoses in 2019 and 2020, according to the Nevada State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System. The statistics show deaths by unintentional overdoses rose 55 percent from 2019 to 2020. Death by unintentional overdoses for those under 25 jumped from 38 in 2019 to 106 in 2020, according to state statistics.
The state won more than $330 million in two multi-state lawsuits, Ford announced in January, according to reports. The state’s contract stipulates the law firm will receive 19 percent of recoveries, according to the Nevada Independent, which also noted some judges have capped fees.
“The real issue is the fact that he abstained from the whole process,” Chattah said. “I find it extremely hard to believe that this (hiring of Ford’s former law firm) was happenstance. And I am not the only one who shares that sentiment. It is a lot of people. It is national law firms that share that sentiment.”
Ford has said he strictly recused himself from the selection process of choosing an outside firm to lead the way on the opioid settlement.
“The person running against me for this seat, and her supporters, they are certainly touting this conspiracy theory, that I had something to do with the selection process,” Ford said recently on Nevada Newsmakers. “I had nothing to do with the selection process, by design, intentionally because I wanted to avoid this exact concern.
“I recused myself from the outset, when the selection process was underway to determine who is going to receive the contract to help us with outside counsel resources for this,” Ford said. “Our office, there is no way our office could have handled this. There are terabytes of data we had to analyze, hundred of paralegals who we had to hire and we hired those by virtue of obtaining outside counsel.”
“But that outside counsel was secured and vetted through a committee, independent of me, seven or nine members or so. They vetted every application that came through,” Ford continued. “They ranked them and at the end of the day, awarded the firm of Eglet Prince, Eglet Adams now, the contract and I had nothing to do with it at all.”
Bids were taken to represent Nevada by a seven-person search committee that did not include Ford. Factors in choosing the winning firm included the firm’s legal strategy, professional reputation and ability to front financial resources to fight the litigation, according to the Nevada Independent. Nine firms applied for the job, according to AG documents.
Chattah, however, said Ford’s former firm should not have been chosen.
“And let me just reiterate that as an AG, I also believe that absolutely we should give priority to Nevada law firms,” she said. “But I know the type of law firms we have in Nevada and I’ve litigated with those law firms. We’ve got some outstanding lawyers, we really do. So I don’t believe for one minute that his law firm is the one that should have received it.”
Chattah’s accusations did not begin with her, she said.
“I’ve only made an accusation that has been made for the past three years,” she said, adding she has no evidence that Ford was involved in his former law firm’s successful selection process.
“I’m not going to speculate on how that corruption worked,” she said. “I don’t know. But you can look at circumstantial evidence and we, all of us lawyers, have won trials based on circumstantial evidence. One plus one generally equals two and I just think you can’t have that much of a perfect storm.”
She said the “informed speculation” of the hiring of Ford’ former firm “up until now, was that were was no transparency in the process.”