Seeking to deflect criticism of Mel Gibson, Prager revived discredited accusations that Sen. Clinton made anti-Semitic remarks 30 years ago
While defending actor Mel Gibson from criticism Gibson has received for making anti-Semitic remarks during a July 28 drunken-driving arrest, right-wing columnist and radio host Dennis Prager revived the discredited allegation that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made "private remarks that were anti-Semitic" more than three decades ago.
On the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, while defending actor Mel Gibson from criticism Gibson has received for making anti-Semitic remarks during a July 28 drunken-driving arrest, right-wing columnist and radio host Dennis Prager revived the discredited allegation that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) made "private remarks that were anti-Semitic" more than three decades ago. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, these allegations were originally advanced by former President Bill Clinton's 1974 congressional campaign manager, who has reportedly "admitted to leveling charges 'without factual foundation' against the Clintons in the past." Moreover, Sen. Clinton biographer Gail Sheehy, author of Hillary's Choice (Random House, November 1999), told the Associated Press that she didn't use the source's accusation because he was "only moderately reliable" and "kind of flaky," and because "even he didn't back it up."
On Hardball, Prager asserted that Gibson -- who issued an apology "to everyone in the Jewish community" for his "vitriolic and harmful words" -- "may actually be a penitent." Additionally, Prager argued that "you don't judge people by their private remarks; you judge them by their public remarks and by their actions," citing a July 18, 2000, Wall Street Journal column, in which he "came out on behalf of" Sen. Clinton, who he said had made "private remarks that were anti-Semitic."
In his July 18, 2000, Journal column, Prager brought up Sen. Clinton's alleged remark to criticize what he deemed the "moral idiocy of judging people by stray private comments," a practice he described as a "totalitarian temptation inherent in contemporary liberalism." The allegation, originally advanced in the book State of a Union: Inside the Complex Marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton (HarperCollins, July 2000) by former Enquirer reporter Jerry Oppenheimer, claimed that Sen. Clinton -- in Prager's words -- "called Paul Fray, the manager of her husband's failed 1974 congressional campaign, a 'Jew bastard.' " But as Media Matters noted, Fray is "a disbarred lawyer who has admitted to leveling charges 'without factual foundation' against the Clintons in the past" [Chicago Sun-Times, 8/9/00].
From the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MIKE BARNICLE (guest host): Dennis, you know, I mean, there is a school -- there is a school of thought here that the tequila, or whatever you -- he [Gibson] was drinking in this case could well be a truth serum. I mean, that this is who Mel Gibson really is.
PRAGER: I believe that. I believe it, too. I believe that. I believe that. I believe that in wine there is truth. I'm not denying it at all.
I'm just saying that the man may actually be a penitent and that he might be fighting this anti-Semitic demon inherited from his father, who denies the Holocaust, and the Jewish community ought to be open to that fact. We have real enemies who really want to annihilate the Jewish people and we ought to concentrate on them.
BARNICLE: Raoul, what about that? I mean, are we making too much of this because Mel Gibson is famous, he's an actor? I mean --
RAOUL FELDER (attorney): Well, you know, unfortunately, actors and celebrities are into your bedroom more than your wife and girlfriend sometimes, so they inculcate themselves into American life and people give what they say more importance than it should be.
And he is a very prominent person. He -- what would happen, let me suggest this to Mr. Prager -- what would happen if somebody made a remark about African-Americans and said they're responsible for all the killing in the world? I don't think people would be so quickly to say, oh, maybe he's repentant, we're going to educate him, we're going to teach him 2,000 years of history that our people have suffered.
PRAGER: All I know -- well, let me tell you, I wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal a few years ago, entitled "Hillary Clinton is no anti-Semite." I came out on behalf of a person on the left. She had private remarks that were anti-Semitic and I said then and I say now, you don't judge people by their private remarks, you judge them by their public remarks and by their actions. If we start judging --
BARNICLE: What sense does that --
FELDER: And I -- and I naively thought private remarks reveal more about the people --
FELDER: -- than what they say in a scripted public appearance. And this is what happened here. This is what -- this man's heart has hatred towards the Jewish race.
PRAGER: That's right. That's right, except -- that's right --
FELDER: He said we caused people -- all the wars, we're responsible for millions of people getting killed, and I don't know, Dennis, how you could just say, well, maybe he converted.