(The Hill) – Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate Kathy Barnette on Thursday denied writing a tweet that claimed “pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam,” saying that she “would have never said that.”
In an interview with NBC’s Dasha Burns, Barnette, a conservative commentator who is running for the GOP Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, flatly rejected the notion that she had authored the 2015 tweet, despite the fact that the post still exists on her Twitter account.
“Yeah, no, I don’t think that’s me,” Barnette said. “I would never have said that. OK, I would have never said that, because I don’t believe that.”
Barnette’s campaign manager did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the denial.
The denial comes as Barnette surges in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary just days before Republican voters head to the polls to choose their nominee to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Former President Trump has endorsed celebrity physician Mehmet Oz in the primary, though polling suggests a close race for the Republican nod. A Fox 29-InsiderAdvantage survey released earlier this week shows Oz leading the field with 23 percent support, though Barnette trails in a close second with 21 percent support.
Barnette’s late rise in the primary has come as a surprise to many Republicans, who saw Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick as the two front-runners.
Barnette has a history of making controversial remarks, especially when it comes to Islam. She repeatedly accused former President Obama of secretly being a Muslim in past tweets and has ridiculed the religion as irrational.
Still, Barnette has received the backing of powerful conservatives. The Club for Growth, one of the most influential players in Republican primaries, endorsed her Senate bid this week and is spending some $2 million on ads seeking to boost her candidacy in the final stretch of the primary campaign.
The primary will be held on May 17. On the Democratic side, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman appears to be the clear front-runner, with recent polling showing him notching over 50 percent support and leading his nearest primary rival, Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), by a wide, double-digit margin.