The Tea Party upsets in New York and Delaware are the big news items from yesterday’s primaries. But the key question now, of course, is: Is it good for the Jews?
Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino can credit much of their success to their use of tough rhetoric and straight talk on issues of taxes, government and family. But it’s that same rhetoric that has already gotten them in trouble with some in the Jewish community.
For O’Donnell, who won the Republican nomination for the Delaware Senate seat previously held by vice president Joe Biden, it was an unusual comment she made during a TV interview over a decade ago.
In a 1998 appearance on “Politically Incorrect,” the discussion touched on O’Donnell’s belief that lying is never acceptable (the original context being the Monica Lewinsky affair.)
Comedian Eddie Izzard quizzed O’Donnell:
“What if someone comes to you in the middle of the Second World War and says, ‘do you have any Jewish people in your house?’ and you do have them. That would be a lie. That would be disrespectful to Hitler.
O’Donnell: “I believe if I were in that situation, God would provide a way to do the right thing righteously. I believe that!”
At this point the host Bill Maher turned to her and said: “Oh, shut up. Come on.”
Now, O’Donnell’s surprise win has led reporters to dig up her many controversial comments from the past, and the lying-to-the-Nazis remarks have resurfaced.
For O’Donnell’s fellow Tea Partier, Carl Paladino, who won the Republican nomination for governor of New York, it was a more recent comment that got him in trouble.
In October 2009, speaking to a room full of supporters, he said of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: “If I could ever describe a person who would fit the bill of an Antichrist or a Hitler, this guy is it.” Silver is Jewish.
This remark caught the attention of the Anti Defamation League’s national director Abraham Foxman who called it “outrageous, insulting and offensive.”
So far the Tea Party hasn’t had much success with Jewish voters, but all this might change with the charm offensive activists are planning. The movement plans to run ads in Jewish newspaper depicting the Tea Party as a diverse and open group. The ads, according to reports, will feature African-American, Hispanic and Jewish Tea Party supporters.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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