Wash. Times' Hentoff repeated baseless claim about progressive bloggers' purported "anti-Semitism"

››› ››› KURT DONALDSON

In his Washington Times column, Nat Hentoff repeated the baseless claim that "blogging anti-Semites had [Sen. Joseph I.] Lieberman in their sights" during the recent Connecticut Democratic Senate primary. In fact, the two comments in question were made by weblog readers, and one was clearly a parody of an anti-Semitic rant.

In an August 21 column, Washington Times columnist Nat Hentoff repeated the baseless claim that "blogging anti-Semites had [Sen. Joseph I.] Lieberman in their sights" during the recent Connecticut Democratic primary race between Lieberman and winner Ned Lamont. Hentoff argued that Lieberman was attacked "not only for his stand on the Iraq war but also because he is a Jew," and that he "was not surprised" at the "hatred among several of the fiercely anti-Bush bloggers during the campaign." Hentoff cited an op-ed in the August 8 edition of The Wall Street Journal by Lanny J. Davis, a Lieberman supporter and former special counsel to President Clinton, which quoted from comments by weblog readers that Davis characterized as "extremis[t], bigot[ed] and intoleran[t]." However, read in context, one of the quotations Hentoff cited was clearly a parody of an anti-Semitic rant, and both were from the reader comments section of the blogs, as Media Matters for America noted. Neither Hentoff nor Davis cited any evidence that either commenter spoke for anyone in the progressive community or that either commenter is actually a progressive.

As Media Matters demonstrated, Hentoff and Davis simply misrepresented a reader comment by someone identifying himself as "tomjones" that appeared on the Daily Kos blog on December 7, 2005. The initial comment, followed by tomjones's reply, went as follows:

Why Should Joe [Lieberman] Care ... about a bunch of goyim dying in Iraq? It's not like anybody he cares about is suffering as a direct result of the war.

by greenskeeper on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 01:53:09 PM PDT

right ... because as everybody knows, jews ONLY care about the welfare of other jews; thanks ever so much for reminding everyone of this most salient fact, so that we might better ignore all that jewish propaganda about participating in the civil rights movement of the 60s and so on

by tomjones on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 02:04:20 PM PDT

In context, tomjones's comment is not only clearly a sarcastic rejoinder to greenskeeper, but also apparently in defense of Lieberman.

The other reader comment Hentoff referred to was made by a JeffDeVore and posted on The Huffington Post website.

Additionally, Hentoff claimed "in all the coverage" of the Lieberman and Lamont contest, "there has been very little notice of the vivid, though limited, obbligato of anti-Semitism." But, as Media Matters for America noted, The New York Times reported an allegation by Dan Gerstein, "a former Lieberman aide and informal adviser to the campaign," of a "growing tolerance" in the "progressive community" for a "perhaps anti-Semitic faction," but presented no evidence in support of Gerstein's claim.

From Hentoff's August 21 column in The Washington Times:

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman -- now an insistently independent Democrat -- was pilloried during his losing primary contest with Ned Lamont, not only for his stand on the Iraq war but also because he is a Jew. Being one myself for many years, I was not surprised by the centuries-old persistence of this hatred among several of the fiercely anti-Bush bloggers during the campaign.

As Lanny Davis, special counsel to President Clinton, and a Lieberman supporter, reminded us in the Aug. 8 Wall Street Journal, blogging anti-Semites had Mr. Lieberman in their sights back on the Daily Kos Web site on Dec. 7 from a contributor: "... as everyone knows, Jews only care about the welfare of other Jews; thanks ever so much for reminding everyone of this most salient fact." And on July 8 of this year, on the Huffington Post Web site: "Lieberman cannot escape the religious bond he represents. Hell, his wife's name is Haggadah or Muffeletta or Diaspora or something you eat at Passover."

Mr. Davis made the obvious point that "most Connecticut Democrats voting for Mr. Lamont are genuinely outraged at President Bush for his Iraq War policies" and Mr. Lieberman's religion was not at all their motivation for backing this George Soros-supported Lamont to replace him. But except for Mr. Davis, in all the coverage of this campaign for "the soul of the Democratic Party," there has been very little notice of the vivid, though limited, obbligato of anti-Semitism.

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