On June 14, Newsmax published an article by Ronald Kessler featuring the claims of Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, that Jewish leaders in America are, as Kessler wrote, "deeply troubled by" President Obama's "recent Middle East initiatives, and some are questioning what he really believes." While Kessler claimed that "Hoenlein says he is only offering his personal views," he obfuscated that by asserting that "the conference he represents is a political powerhouse that includes 50 major Jewish groups. Among them are the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), B’nai B’rith International, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America, Hadassah, and the Anti-Defamation League."
Hoenlein has since been trying to distance himself from the article. The Forward reported that Hoenlein's remarks "drew immediate criticism from Jewish activists," who said that they are "a mistaken reading of Jewish public opinion." Hoenlein is now claiming, according to the Forward, that his "quotes were taken out of context."
Meanwhile, JTA reported that Hoenlein is claiming that Kessler "conflated the questions with the answers":
"My point was" the community "is not monolithic," he said, noting that the article never directly quotes him saying what the lede of the piece claims, that "President Obama’s strongest supporters among Jewish leaders are deeply troubled by his recent Middle East initiatives, and some are questioning what he really believes."
In fact, Hoenlein said he said the same things in the Newsmax interview that he has told several interviewers since the president's speech, but no one else drew the same conclusion.
In response, Newsmax posted the transcript of the relevant segment of Kessler's interview with Hoenlein under the headline "Transcript Confirms Jewish Leader's Comments That Jews 'Very Concerned' About Obama," noting that Hoenlein "has backtracked, claiming to Jewish news outlets that his comments were taken out of context." (Newsmax also released the audio of the interview.) But Hoenlein never directly says what the headline claims he said even though, as the transcript shows, Kessler was actively trying to get him to do so. He didn't, so Kessler used a bit of inference to get to that assertion:
Kessler: Are you finding that Jewish leaders are starting to have buyer’s remorse about Obama?
Hoenlein: I can’t speculate about that. I do think, and I’ve heard and read comments that people have made, the concerns that they are expressing, that people were concerned about what was said. I’ve heard it from some of his strongest supporters, expected from his detractors, but I think many of them were concerned, even people close to him have said to us that there were parts of the speech that bothered them.
Kessler: Could I ask did you vote for Obama and now do you regret it?
Hoenlein: I never discuss how I vote.
Kessler: But have you heard that from some Jewish leaders, just privately?
Hoenlein: That they’re saying that?
Hoenlein: Let’s say there’s a lot of questioning going on about what he really believes, what does he really stand for. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty right now.
Kessler: I’m just thinking of the fact he got such overwhelming support from Jews, and now what are they thinking.
Hoenlein: They are thinking, that’s what’s important. You should always be thinking. You shouldn’t vote without thinking, and after they vote, they should think about what’s going on. And people are genuinely very concerned not just about President Obama. I mean it’s a time of heightened concern, and I think this is part of it.
It appears that Kessler -- who, as we've detailed, is actively anti-Obama -- came into the interview with an specific agenda: to use Hoenlein to portray Jews, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama, as regretting that support. While Hoenlein didn't completely cooperate despite Kessler's leading questions, he said things that were close enough that Kessler could make the claim anyway and, thus, stay on message with his agenda.
While Kessler and Hoenlein are each trying to portray themselves as innocent victims, they both share the guilt. Kessler had an agenda, and Hoenlein cooperated just enough with it.