The MRC's Partisan Interpretation Of 'Anti-Semitic'
The Media Research Center had trouble criticizing Kanye West's anti-Semitism, but it rushed to proclaim without explanation that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar's criticism of Israel is "anti-Semitic." PLUS: The MRC defended Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones against charges of racism after an old photo resurfaced.
By Terry Krepel
Indeed, Omar has been a longtime MRC target for building a narrative of anti-Semitism around her. In February 2022, Curtis Houck complained that Stephen Colbert called out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for not quickly denouncing neo-Nazis but "ignored DeSantis emphasizing how anti-Semitism is a scourge inside the left as they’ve chosen to include open anti-Semites in the halls of Congress like Ilhan Omar (MN). In an April 2022 post, Matt Philbin sneered when Omar called out right-wing Christian travelers who inflicted their religion on their fellow plane passengers by holding a loud prayer session: "It’s not just Jews. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, doesn’t seem to like Christians much, either.
As the MRC was desperate to downplay the Kanye/Trump drama, it was quite eager to attack Omar's alleged anti-Semitism -- particularly as Republicans taking control of the House meant that they would purge designated Democratic enemies like Omar off committees. Nicholas Fondacaro raged in a Nov. 22 post when a co-host on "The View" defended her:
Up in arms that possible House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised to strip extremist Democrats of their committee assignments when/if he becomes speaker of the House, including Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, The View took to downplaying her rabid anti-Semitism on Tuesday and giving a full-throated defense of her anti-American comments comparing the United States to terrorist groups like Hamas and the Taliban.
The Omar remark to which he's referring is so entrenched on the right that Fondacaro didn't feel the need to explain or elaborate. It comes from a 2021 remark in which she noted that "we have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban"; she later clarified to note that “I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems."
Note that Fondacaro also did not dispute the accuracy of Omar's statement but instead rushed to smear her as anti-Semitic for saying it; he also did not explain how it was "false" for Hostin to say Omar is "committed to learning more."
Kevin Tober called Omar a "noted anti-Semite" in a Nov. 26 post, unironically linking to a 2019 NPR story on Omar's "criticism of Israel," thus again conflating any criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism (and blowing up the MRC's narrative about NPR being hopelessly biased). Jeffrey Lord gushed over McCarthy's plans in his column the same day:
The liberal media loved Pelosi for forcing the Republican Rep. [Marjorie Taylor] Greene off her committee assignments for, among other things, anti-Semitism. McCarthy warned of the precedent this would set, but he went unheeded.
The MRC portrayed Greene as a victim because her anti-Semitism (Jewish space lasers, anyone?) and extremism was called out and even whined that she was being compared to Omar.
In his Dec. 3 column, Lord touted right-wing radio host Chris Salcedo playing whataboutism over Trump dining with Ye and Fuentes, highlighting that he declared "Fuentes is every bit as anti-Semitic as 'AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Louis Farrakhan are.' For Trump to dine with Ye and Fuentes, he said, was just as bad as if he 'broke bread with Ilhan Omar, the leaders of BLM, or Linda Sarsour, or any leftwing Jew hater.'"
As new Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy moved toward kicking Omar off House committees as revenge for Democrats denying committee seats to extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the MRC hauled the label out again. A Jan. 29 post by Mark Finkelstein complained that MSNBC's Mark Finkelstein referenced "the danger that Trump poses to this country" during a visit to Auschwitz and brought up how Trump leans into white supremacism with Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, which Finkelstein countered with Omar whataboutism:
In decrying anti-semitism in the US, the only example Emhoff gave was of the tiki-torch-carrying white nationalists at Charlottesville. Andin a clear shot at Trumphe decried "so-called leaders who see this stuff, hear this stuff, and they know better. And they don't say a word. They don't say a word because some lack courage."
The same day, Kevin Tober cheered that in "random act of journalism," Omar was asked about her "anti-Semitic comments" in an appearance on CNN:
Finally, [host Dana] Bash turned to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and went through the comprehensive list of anti-Semetic comments she’s made over the years which are responsible for her pending removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Tober didn't explain how Omar's criticism of Israel equates to anti-Semitism. Alex Christy played the same evidence-free equivocation in a Feb. 2 post:
The Thursday edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC was in full spin mode as Republicans prepared to kick Rep. Ilhan Omar off the Foreign Affairs Committee for her history of anti-Semitic statements, but according to Mitchell it was simply “criticism of Israel.” Meanwhile, Washington correspondent Yamiche Alcindor alleged that Republican hypocrisy is the real story.
Instead of explaining why he believes any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, Christy complained that Alcindor accurately observed that Trump "has said all sorts of things that people see as anti-Semitic," then tried to play whataboutism with that by linking to a old Fox News article noting that Barack Obama appeared in a picture 20 years ago with Louis Farrakhan and huffing, "Alcindor should stay on topic because she probably does not want to take that argument to its logical conclusion." Yes, whataboutism would be a logical conclusion for Christy.
The next day, the MRC made Omar its designated enemy of the day. Tober attacked an MSNBC segment in who "went into an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tirade accusing the state of Israel of being a terrorist state and turning the West Bank into an apartheid state," which he claimed "sounded like it was written by anti-Semites like Ilhan Omar." Later that day, Christy returned to whine that NBC's Seth Meyers called out McCarthy's pettiness in kicking Omar off committees and calling it right-wing cancel culture:
After playing clips of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene talking about Critical Race Theory, Meyers transitioned to a new topic, “So that's who the GOP thinks should be able to serve on committees. Meanwhile, today they voted to kick Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a refugee and one of the only two Muslim women in the House, off the Foreign Affairs Committee for the simple reason that they don't like her or her point of view.”
Christy did manage to refrain from calling Omar "anti-Semitic."
A Feb. 3 post by Finkelstein raged at Scarborough for daring to suggest that Omar's criticism of Israel may not be anti-Semitic:
Today, Morning Joe's virtue-signaling spotlight turned to the ouster, by a vote of Republicans, of far-left Representative Ilhan Omar from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs committee.
Nicholas Fondacaro cheered that "The View" co-host Sunny Hostin (whom he brands as "racist" because he doesn't understand how metaphors work) got a verbal beatdown from the other co-hosts for defending Omar:
With co-host Whoopi Goldberg taking here usual Friday off, most of The View cast seemed to feel empowered to confront racist Sunny Hostin after she tried to defend Ilhan Omar, the antisemitism Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman who, after spewing hate for years, was punished on Thursday for when she was stripped of her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Hostin was caught off guard, scrambling to take swipes as co-host Joy Behar led Sara Haines and Alyssa Farah Griffin in the pile-on.
In the last of five posts on Feb. 3, Tim Graham had a right-wing anti-Omar author on his podcast to help him bash her:
As the House voted to remove far-left Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the bluest media (like Morning Joe) said they would stand proudly with Omar and against GOP "hypocrisy." Scarborough would only say Omar's antisemitic rantings were "considered antisemitic," and hey, she apologized. CNN put on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to suggest the GOP were committing "stochastic terrorism" and Omar was being punished for being a Woman of Color.
Jeffrey Lord used his Feb. 4 column to cheer Omar being removed "because of her blatant and repeated anti-Semitism," going to use her to smear Democrats as a whole:
But the bottom line is that as created and as it has evolved the Democrat Party [sic] of today exists in a culture of race and racism. Everything is about race.
Says the guy who gave a pass to Trump leaning into anti-Semitism because he pushed right-wing pro-Israel talking points.
In contrast to its lashing out at Hostin, the MRC was completely silent when podcaster Joe Rogan defended Omar by insisting her "all about the Benjamins" remark was "not an anti-Semitic statement" and that "she’s just talking about money." Then he arguably went further than Omar did, claiming that "The idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous. That’s like saying Italians aren’t into pizza. It’s fing stupid. It’s fing stupid." But then, the MRC spent a good chunk of last year defending Rogan after he got called out for spreading COVID misinformation, so his anti-Semitic leanings get the same pass from the MRC it gave to Trump.
Defending Jerry Jones
Meanwhile, the MRC found another dubious character to defend: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, after the Washington Post found a 1950s picture of a teenage Jones among a crowd of segregationists harassing a group of black students integrating a high school in North Little Rock, Ark., where he grew up. An outraged Dec. 1 post by Maxson was in full lash-out mode -- not at Jones, of course, but at the Post for exposing what Jones did and at LeBron James for commenting on it:
We know that LeBron James is more than an athlete and the Washington Post sports section is more than a sports section. They’ve told us so. On Wednesday night, James took on members of the media in condescending fashion after a Lakers’ game about why they did not question his reaction to an ages-old photo of Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones watching desegregation efforts in Arkansas.
Maxson didn't explain why it was "race-baiting" for the Post to accurately report on the Cowboys' dismal record on coaches, or why it was "character assassination" to report accurate information about that and the photo -- or why he censored that the Post also reported that under Jones' Cowboys ownership, "just two of the team’s offensive or defensive coordinators, the steppingstones to head coaching positions, have been Black, including none since 2008."
Maxson then complained that James "was miffed that the media had recently jumped all over the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving for anti-semitism and why Jones wasn’t canceled over a photo of Jones resurrected from 1957," going on to huff:
Getting back to James, while constantly running interference for his evil Communist Chinese benefactors, he assumed that Jones was guilty of something for just having watched race relations boil over in Arkansas so long ago. Jones also opposed anthem kneeling in 2017, putting a target on his back for social justice warriors. James is no longer the Dallas Cowboys fan he used to be.
Maxson didn't mention that his MRC colleagues had trouble criticizing Irving's fit of anti-Semitism, with Maxson himself (or herself) playing the whataboutism card. And he played whataboutism here too, insisting that James was somehow a bigger racist than Jones.
In that vein, the closest thing to a forceful criticism of Irving's anti-Semitism by the MRC came in a Dec. 1 post by Mark Finkelstein -- and it happened only because Finkelstein was defending Jones and criticizing James:
What's next, Don Lemon: "whether or not you agree with the people hanging 'Kanye Is Right' banners?"
Meanwhile, Nicholas Fondacaro suddenly found harsh words to condemn West's anti-Semitism in a Dec. 2 post that, again, came in the context of trying to defend Jones and attack James:
Racist Sunny Hostin was at it again on Friday’s edition of The View. During a discussion about Kanye West’s heinous comments spouting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, the ABC co-host demanded a “limitation” on the First Amendment. Something she surely doesn’t intend to apply to her, as she followed up with a disgusting assertion that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could have been in the KKK when he was 14.
On the subject of China, Fondacaro seems to have forgotten that his employer hypocritically stopped criticizing Elon Musk for being too cozy with those commies when he got interested in buying Twitter in order to own the libs. Instead, Fondacaro is demonstrating yet again that the MRC cares about criticizing racism or anti-Semitism only when doing so advances its partisan right-wing narratives, and they have little interest in unequivocal criticism of their fellow right-wingers.