A candidate for New York’s state senate said Tuesday she was sexually assaulted five years ago by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an accusation the man denies.
Julia Salazar, 27, whose insurgent campaign has attracted wide attention, said on Twitter that she was speaking out about David Keyes because she was about to be ‘outed’ as a sexual assault survivor.
Salazar’s spokesman added that she had been contacted by a reporter for conservative news site The Daily Caller.
‘Before this runs, I want to come forward and confirm that I was a victim of sexual assault by David Keyes – the Prime Minister of Israel’s spokesperson to foreign media,’ said Salazar, who is seeking to unseat Brooklyn state Sen. Martin Dilan in Thursday’s Democratic primary.
Keyes later issued a statement to The Associated Press, saying: ‘This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life. This is yet another example of her dishonesty.’
Salazar wrote on Twitter that she felt the Daily Caller was trying to cast doubt upon her allegations.
‘I strongly believe sexual assault survivors should not be outed in this way, and am saddened by the effect this story may have on other women,’ she said.
The announcement came as Salazar, who is hoping to join a wave of challengers toppling establishment Democrats, has faced scrutiny over embarrassing episodes in her past and intense criticism for misrepresenting elements of her biography.
She gave public speeches and interviews saying she was an immigrant from Colombia when she was actually born in Florida.
She also told people she had a degree from Columbia University when she did not graduate.
Opponents also point out she registered as a Republican in Florida before performing a political flip flop and declaring herself a socialist after moving to Brooklyn, New York in 2017.
Journalists also revealed that Salazar was arrested in 2011 on charges of fraudulently trying to access the bank account of the estranged wife of a famous neighbor, baseball great Keith Hernandez.
Salazar was accused of having an affair with Hernandez during a bitter four-year libel battle with his ex-wife.
Keith Hernandez denies they were lovers and his ex-wife says she never accused him of an affair.
His ex-wife Kai Hernandez told police in 2010 that Salazar had stolen $11,800 in cash, $1,175 in Pottery Barn vouchers and $950 worth of wine while house-sitting for her in Jupiter, Florida.
She also claimed that that 27-year-old Salazar stole her personal information and tried to use it to access her bank account.
The Columbia University student was arrested, interrogated and ‘humiliated’ before cops dismissed the allegations and she fired back at Hernandez, 54, with a defamation lawsuit.
The ex-first baseman was listed as a witness for Salazar when the case was set for trial in March 2017, however both sides settled at the last moment.
The charges were never prosecuted and Salazar later sued Hernandez’s wife claiming she tried to frame her in the case.
Kai Hernandez settled the lawsuit for $20,000.
Salazar first made her accusations against Keyes in 2016 after he was named as a spokesman for Netanyahu.
In a Facebook post, now deleted, she wrote that Keyes had physically coerced her into a sexual act in 2013 at his New York City apartment after they met for coffee. A campaign spokesman, Michael Kinnucan, said it was a friends-only post that was up for less than 24 hours.
The allegation was reported in 2016 by Israeli media, but Salazar was not identified by name in those stories.
Keyes also denied the allegations then, saying ‘there was absolutely no coercion in our encounter,’ the Times of Israel reported, citing Israel’s Army Radio.
Kinnucan said Salazar, who never reported the encounter with Keyes to police, was being forced to address the allegations publicly after being contacted by the Daily Caller.
The website posted a story later Tuesday confirming it had told the Salazar campaign it was preparing a story saying she was the woman who anonymously accused Keyes on social media in 2016.
The Daily Caller website reprinted an email they sent to Salazar’s campaign which read: “Why did she delete these accusations? Does she still stand by them? My deadline is in one hour.”
The Daily Caller said Salazar’s campaign confirmed she was the accuser without asking to withhold her identity.
Meanwhile, another woman has come forward to also accuse Keyes of sexual assault.
Shayndi Raice, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, tweeted in response to Salazar’s accusation: ‘ I also had a terrible encounter with David Keyes once and 100% believe her.
‘I knew this would come out about him at some point.
‘The man had absolutely no conception of the word “no.”
‘No matter how often I said no, he would not stop pushing himself on me.
‘I was able to extricate myself quickly and it was a very brief and uncomfortable moment but I knew as I walked away I had encountered a predator.
‘In subsequent conversations, I had discovered his mistreatment of women was an open secret. (I should note this happened before he worked for the prime minister.)’
Salazar shot to prominence on the heels of fellow democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who upset Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th congressional district.
But her claims about growing up among poor, working class, Colombian immigrants have begun to unravel in recent days, with her own family members coming forward to contradict her.
Salazar has been criticized for identifying as a Jew despite her mother Christine insisting she was baptized a Catholic and her brother Alex stating that none of their relatives are Jewish – and her uncle is a priest.
Ocasio-Cortez has campaigned for her, including at an event in Williamsburg last week.
But the focus on Salazar has been on the reliability of her autobiography.
‘I am a Colombian, American, but I am also Jewish,’ she said during a recorded campaign event.
Alex Salazar later told online Jewish magazine Tablet that nobody in their immediate family was Jewish, though one of their father’s brothers was in fact a Jesuit priest.
‘My father was not Jewish, we were not raised Jewish,’ he insisted.
She claims her father was of ‘Sephardic heritage’ and that after he died when she was 18, she ‘began to deeply explore my religious roots’.
She claimed that raising questions over whether she was Jewish were ‘seeking to discredit my conversion and my Jewishness in a misguided attempt to attack my credibility as a progressive candidate’.
Salazar claimed she was born in Colombia in an interview with the Chapo Trap House podcast but conceded that was an error, blaming a campaign staffer, when her birthplace was revealed as Miami.