Liberal Lesley Hughes was among several candidates from across the political spectrum who came under scrutiny on Thursday for past comments.

Hughes, who is running in the Winnipeg riding of Kildonan-St. Paul, was criticized for an old column she wrote as a freelance journalist.

In it, she suggests that Israeli intelligence warned the U.S. in advance of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Centre and that Israeli businesses vacated the premises before the attack.

Hughes, a former CBC journalist, also referred readers to websites that assert "CIA foreknowledge and complicity of highly placed officials in the U.S. administration around the attacks on the twin towers."

In a statement Thursday, Hughes described herself as a "lifelong friend and supporter of the Jewish community in Winnipeg" and said she finds it "personally offensive" to be accused of anti-Semitism.

However, she "heartily" apologized for any perception of anti-Semitism.

The controversy surfaced a day after Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion announced in Winnipeg his party's pledge to give $75 million to beef up security at churches, mosques and other potentially targeted religious or ethnic centres.

Two other electoral hopefuls were enveloped in controversies Thursday — in Ontario, Durham NDP candidate Andrew McKeever over comments about war deserters, and in Alberta, Calgary Centre Conservative Lee Richardson over remarks linking immigrants to crime.

Hughes was looking to unseat incumbent Conservative Joy Smith in Kildonan-St. Paul, located in the northeast corner of Winnipeg, a riding that has fluctuated between the Tories and Liberals.

Smith won her second term in 2006 after edging past the Liberal candidate in the 2004 general election.

With files from the Canadian Press