Terry H. Schwadron
March 18, 2019
We’re all the way back to not knowing know what to do about statements that are racist, lean racist or just plain offend because they are heard that way.
Typically, we ask for an apology, only to hear the speaker often say that he or she was misunderstood. Now we’re seeing instances in which non-apologetic speakers are saying, essentially, bring it on.
And, as a result, opportunist politicians are jumping in and trashing the entire other political party for allowing it.
Last weekend, for examples, the comments from commentator Judge Jeanine Pirrowere so Islamaphobic that even Fox News was forced to distance itself from Pirro. “We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar, whom she said supports Sharia Law and not the Constitution because she wears a hijab,” the network wrote in a statement. “They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.” This week, the network preempted her show altogether.
It happens that Hufsa Kamal, a producer for Fix’s Special Report With Bret Baier, another program on Fox News, also publicly attacked Pirro’s remarks as a Muslin employee of Fox News. But now President Trump has added fuel to what might have been embers by attacking Fox for giving in to political correctness by silencing, for one week in any case, his friend, Pirro.
For her part, Pirro is not apologizing, adding: “I’ve seen a lot of comments about my opening statement from Saturday night’s show and I did not call Rep. Omar un-American,” she said in a statement. “My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution. I invite Rep. Omar to come on my show any time to discuss all of the important issues facing America today.” Rep. Ilhan Omar, the target, thanked Fox News for condemning the remarks. “Thank you, @FoxNews. No one’s commitment to our constitution should be questioned because of their faith or country of birth,” she tweeted.
Fox’s Tucker Carlson, another commentator, said a Media Matters report by a 24-year-old reporter that merely quoted transcripts of him trashing various women over the years and even seemed to minimize the importance of statutory rape was “a hit job” and part of an organized campaign.
He, too, was unapologetic, and thought it was simply unfair to quote him to himself. His response instead was to invite anyone onto his nightly television show who wanted to engage in criticism over his misogynistic remarks.
Now NBC says there is another tranche of Calson transcripts with equally unpleasant depictions of women and people of color.
President Trumphas been on a tear about such things, taking advantage where he can both to distract and to underscore his allegiance to a base that seems to include an undertone of serious name-calling and sometimes violent events in pursuit of an immigrant-free American.
In the last week, he has phoned friends and RNC donors, and tweeted that Democrats had adopted an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic outlook because the House resolution to spank Rep. Omar,D-MN, was generalized to include a variety of anti-hate response. It was a pathetic scene as Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to peddle away lack of a specific anti-Rep. Omar measure as representing an anti-Semitic Democratic Party.
Worse, Trump’s tepid remarks downplaying the emergence of white supremacist movements under his watch merely have the appearance of official denial while continuing supportive leanings.
Meanwhile what? Jews aren’t Democrats? Only if they still are Communists. Or casino owners in Las Vegas. Someone should have just told him “Gay gesunht” — go in good health, but go away.
It’s all pretty weird. In my world, it’s bad enough to find oneself able to mutter an anti-ethnic slur aloud; it is impossible to then walk away from it without taking any responsibility for the hurt you cause. In a world where Michael Jackson and R Kelly still draw adulation from hard-core fans, I’m a little turned around, I must admit. Michael Cohen is a bad guy because he lies, but President Trump is a good guy who lies but nominates acceptable judges. My ethics meter is spinning.
As it happens, this all started, as I have written about before, with Omar’s various remarks, tweets and twitches over having an AIPAC entrenched in American political circles. AIPAC, like the NRA, is in business to spend its lobbying dollar on behalf of the Israeli cause — regardless of government. In doing so, Omar unearthed tropes about Jews, money and influence, but boy it was work to get there. But it has become more difficult for AIPAC to do so in recent years because Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has moved consistently more to the pollical right. Many American Jews are as uncomfortable with Netanyahu’s policies, including a constantly aggressive settlements policy, and recently AIPAC took the rare move of breaking with Netanyahu because he is aligning with outwardly racist parties in Israel.
Last week, Netanyahu reminded all that in his view (and a new law that he supported) Israel is “the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people” and not its Palestinian Arab minority.
As Rolling Stonelaid out, attacks in the form of questions do not equal “starting a debate.” Pirro plainly suggested that Omar could be un-American because she wears a hijab. Pirro may also feel emboldened by the president’s history of questioning whether Muslims may be prone to subverting American values. This fear that an influx sharia-law-adhering Muslims will infect American culture is what led to Trump’s proposal to ban people from predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States.
In light of all this, Omar’s mistaken remarks, however inappropriate and indeed drawing the expected apologies, to suggest that AIPAC’s support is all about money to congress members and that Congress as a result seems overly tied to Israel seem less anti-Semitic than a kind of accurate reflection of where money comes from. Indeed, Trump’s decision to label all Democrats anti-Semitic seems a direct appeal for money from the Jewish community — ironic in a country where support for the current Israeli government is strongest among American Christian evangelicals.
There is no way that depicting Rep. Omar as anti-American because she wears a hajib, or showing her picture, as the GOP headquarters in West Virginia did, next to smoking ruins of 9/11 is anything about a political debate. It’s about building fear and hate.