Court documents dating back to 1692 show that an ancestor of Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani was convicted of practicing witchcraft in Salem, Mass. The records were found in the archives of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who reportedly considered posthumously pardoning everyone convicted at the witch trials but feared looking soft on crime.
The news about Mr. Giuliani sparked a flurry of reaction. His first wife, Regina Peruggi, told reporters that she once saw her ex-husband's head rotate 360 degrees. And another ex-wife, Donna Hanover, said that her former husband's relationship with his son, Andrew, deteriorated after Mr. Giuliani sacrificed the child's pet goldfish to Satan. Mr. Giuliani denies the head-spinning and goldfish incidents.
Court papers show that Mr. Giuliani's great-, great-, great-uncle, Giuseppe Proctor-Giuliani, was convicted of black magic in the first degree. He was sentenced to three months in the stocks, but was released after two days because of overcrowding.
At a news conference yesterday, Mr. Giuliani brushed off questions about whether he wanted to see Halloween made a national holiday, and tried to steer the controversy to his strong suit. "The irrational fear of witches is the same type of terror our enemies tried to spread on 9/11," he snapped at reporters.
Mr. Giuliani's main Republican rivals also weighed in on the controversy. Former Sen. Fred Thompson told reporters that America needs "a war president, not a warlock," and Sen. John McCain accused the Giuliani campaign of accepting contributions from the American Wiccan Society.
The race for the Democratic nomination also took a dramatic turn this week, when The Drudge Report claimed that Sen. Barack Obama's Kenyan great-, great-grandfather was a witch doctor. A spokeswoman for Mr. Obama, Caroline Giuliani, denied the allegation and accused lobbyists opposed to the senator's health care proposal of planting the story.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America issued a statement saying, "Americans should wonder if Senator Obama would have us replace lifesaving prescription drugs with a witches' brew."
When asked by reporters about the flap involving Mr. Obama, the Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, told reporters, "Senator Obama's faith is a private matter between him and his gods."
Many political observers believe that the questions raised about Mr. Obama and Mr. Giuliani benefit Senator Clinton, as it makes it difficult for her rivals to paint her as the only witch in the race.
Ben Krull is an essayist and family law attorney. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.