Wire Service: AP
On March 25, 2006 the Associated Press reported, "Passaic County Democrats removed an Arab-American freeholder candidate from their ticket Saturday amid a furor over comments he made four years ago that some interpreted as sympathetic to suicide bombers... At issue are comments [Sami Merhi, a Lebanese-born businessman from Totowa] made at a September 2002 fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson. In his remarks, Merhi condemned the Sept. 11 terrorists as 'cold-blooded murderers' and 'crazy fanatics.' When asked if he would apply the same label to Palestinian suicide bombers who target Israelis, Merhi said, 'I can't see the comparison.' In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week, Merhi said the point he was trying to make was that while all murder is wrong, the World Trade Center attack was mass murder on an unprecedented scale. It also was an attack in which his godson was killed. After narrowly losing out on the party's nod in 2004 because of the comments, Merhi was endorsed by the party last week. But after top Democrats, including Gov. Jon S. Corzine and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) weighed in, saying they opposed his candidacy, Passaic County party leaders scheduled a meeting to reconsider their endorsement... The party then withdrew its endorsement of Merhi and chose Joanne Graziano, a Hawthorne school board member, to run in his place... Merhi said he has not decided whether to run in the primary without the Democratic endorsement, or whether he might consider changing his party affiliation to Republican."