- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - When a C-SPAN caller suggested that U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin’s Jewish heritage was a conflict of interest on the president’s Iran nuclear deal, the Maryland Democrat fired back, saying the assumption was offensive.

During an appearance on “Washington Journal” on Wednesday, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stressed that lawmakers should review the deal carefully and his test will be whether it keeps Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.

One caller, identified as a Georgia Democrat, told the host she should disclose that Cardin is Jewish and therefore concerned with Israel, which Iran has threatened to destroy.

“If the public was informed of that by C-SPAN I think they would take his comments differently,” he said. “Because this guy is Jewish, that means he is concerned with Israel, which is only right.”

Cardin responded that the assumption offended him.

“I’m normally pretty tolerant to people who ask questions, but I’m not to your assumption,” Cardin said. “I take great offense to that. Our loyalty is to America, our concerns are to America, our religion is our personal business and should have nothing to do with an evaluation by anyone as to our objectivity on issues concerning America.”

He encouraged the caller to examine his record.

Cardin, the grandson of Lithuanian and Russian Jewish immigrants, is considered one of the most influential Jewish members of Congress. The second term senator has received nearly $238,500 in donations from backers of Israel, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Cardin supported legislation giving Congress an up-or-down vote on the deal and has said he has many questions on how the agreement would work if, for example Iran does not hold up its end of the bargain for inspections.

In an email to supporters on Friday, Cardin said he has read the full agreement and has many questions about the details.

“Let me make it clear that I do not trust Iran,” Cardin writes. “But a diplomatic solution must be our preferred option for keeping Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

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