Astonishingly, Meredith Vieira actually apologized on the latest edition of The Today Show to Jesse Jackson before asking him about his infamous anti-Semitic soundbite from 1984:
But people do say stupid things some times. And Reverend Jackson, I apologize, but some of your critics reminded me of 1984, and I remember it as well. You were running for president, and you referred to New York City as as “Hymietown.”
Jackson has apparently uttered quite a number of anti-Semitic remarks over his life, according to this Salon piece by Jack Tapper from August, 2000:
It’s tough to imagine this year’s Republican National Convention featuring a prime-time speaker who once said that that “Zionism is a kind of poisonous weed that is choking Judaism.” Or that he was “sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust.” Or that traditional Democratic support for Israel is because of “the Jewish element in the party … a kind of glorified form of bribery.” And certainly not if he had ever referred to Jews as “Hymies” and New York as “Hymietown.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, of course, has made all of these comments, and more. Jackson said those things in his 30s and 40s, and has since apologized for them. But his speech at the Democratic Convention Tuesday evening is at the very least an interesting example of the double standard that clearly exists in the media’s — and the Democratic Party’s — sensitivity to anti-Semitism.
This is even more resonant against the backdrop of Vice President Al Gore’s selection of Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate, the first Jew on a major party ticket.
There is a lot to admire about Jackson and his work, which at times are remarkable in their selflessness. And Jackson, as with all of us, should be taken at his word when it comes to his regret at the “Hymietown” comments.
But while Jackson has been forgiven by his party and the press, I wonder how forgiving anyone would be if Gov. George W. Bush had such a long history of questioning people’s integrity because of their religion.
In 1973, for instance, Jackson condemned then President Richard Nixon as being insensitive to the poor, since “four out of five [of Nixon’s top advisors] are German Jews and their priorities are on Europe and Asia.” In 1979, Jackson said that he had “seen very few Jewish reporters that have the capacity to be objective about Arab affairs.”
None of this has occurred in a vacuum. According to a 1998 Anti-Defamation League poll of Americans’ attitudes about Jews, African-Americans are three times more likely to hold latently anti-Semitic views than whites. And, according to ADL director Abraham Foxman, these attitudes in the black community cut across age and economic and educational backgrounds. In the white community, such views are held chiefly by those who are older and less educated.
One certainly has to wonder whether Jackson, through his past comments, has in any way lent legitimacy to anti-Semitism in the black community. Jackson says that he has grown from the days of his anti-Semitic comments, and he has lauded the selection of Lieberman.
But only when it was strategically appropriate to do so: Jackson and Sharpton both very prominently campaigned against Lieberman last year, when they supported Ned Lamont’s abortive run for the Senate.
Related: Betsy Newmark has some thoughts that are well worth reading on “Don Imus And Hypocrisy All Around”.
More: The center-left Politico Website compares Imus’ gaffe with Trent Lott’s:
So, much like Lott, Imus has had to tee up the full-dress mea culpa in recent days, groveling before the very people that he would have nothing to do with were it not for the demand of the moment (Sharpton in Imus’ case, BET’s Bruce Gordon in Lott’s). Because he lost the support of the White House and a few key Republicans in the Senate, Lott finally had to fall on his sword and resign. MSNBC and CBS, of course, can ultimately decide Imus’ fate, but his survival may depend on another constituency — the political and media elite who appear on his show. If, feeling the heat, this group bails on him by making noises about staying away from the show, the networks will more easily be able to cut ties. But don’t count on it. Having been grounded for a couple of weeks, Imus is likely to come back on the air to stay, and his favorite guests will probably come back with him.
The losers in this affair are seemingly everybody involved: Imus, for making such an offensive statement and now making cringe-inducing comments about changing his ways. The networks, for only responding to their star’s comments after it became clear that they had a firestorm on their hands. The journalists and politicians who frequent the show, for being quick to pounce on similarly inappropriate remarks when made by another, less chummy, public figure or a political opponent. Sharpton and Jackson, for shamelessly jockeying to appear on every possible show to get a piece of this story. And, lastly, the media as a whole for ignoring years of over-the-line racial, sexual and gender satire on the show and only popping up when the usual suspects demand blood.
Meanwhile, “For All the Fury, Imus Not Popular: 25th in DC’s Morning Drive & 20th Talker Nationally”.
Late Update: Wow–I didn’t think NBC had it in them: kudos to David Gregory for actually using the words Tawana and Brawley in an interview with Sharpton.