By Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri in this year’s primary has apologized for incorrectly accusing the incumbent of having a picture of disgraced comedian Bill Cosby under his desk.

Maite Salazar, of Kansas City, last week retweeted a post that showed a picture under Cleaver’s desk and claimed it showed Cosby, who was accused of drugging and sexually abusing several women and is serving a three- to 10-year prison term for a conviction in one case.

Rachel Gonzalez, a member of the executive committee for the Missouri Democratic Party, quickly corrected Salazar, tweeting that the picture shows Al Jarreau and was taken when the singer visited Kansas City.

Salazar’s initial apology was criticized as too weak, so the challenger posted a video Monday acknowledging the accusation was mistakenly made without checking if it was true. Salazar apologized directly to Cleaver.

“I have publicly apologized for my actions and hold myself accountable,” Salazar said in a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press. “My focus continues to be on the issues that affect the 5th district.”

Cleaver’s political director, Phil Scaglia, said the picture was under Cleaver’s desk because he has run out of wall space in his office in Washington D.C.

“It is terribly unfortunate that an opponent of Congressman Cleaver chose to attack him in such a disrespectful manner,” Scaglia said. “His career has been built upon consensus, civility and bringing diverse communities together. Certainly this is not the first time as an African American leader in the (Kansas City) metro area and nationally that he has come under baseless and false attacks. He is 100% focused on serving his constituents and focusing on business in Congress.”

Salazar , who is gender fluid, is a progressive who has not previously run for office. Through Sept. 30, 2019, Salazar’s campaign had $1,710 cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Cleaver, who is serving his seventh term in office, had $634,623 cash on hand during the same period.

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