David Friedman, who advises Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Israel policy, called the Forward’s decision earlier this week to suspend coverage of the Trump campaign for 24 hours “hypocritical” and “devoid of any journalistic integrity.”
He didn’t say that to me. Truth is, I didn’t ask the Trump campaign for comment on the “Trumpatorium” I announced on Monday. That would have been, well, awkward.
But in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News television, airing today as part of a broader story about the explosion of hateful and threatening messages targeting Jewish journalists on social media, Friedman defended the candidate he says he’s known for 15 years.
“Donald Trump has repeatedly and unequivocally disavowed and repudiated anti-Semitism in general and David Duke in particular,” Friedman told the Israeli outlet.
But I didn’t mention David Duke in my column. I didn’t say Trump was anti-Semitic. I said that a vicious group of Trump supporters were trolling Jewish journalists critical of the candidate, and that he and his campaign have done nothing to distance themselves from these unprecedented attacks or to repudiate them.
“The Forward, a far left-leaning publication with its roots in the Jewish socialist movement, has every right to oppose Mr. Trump’s policies on their merits,” Friedman continued, “but this personal attack on Mr. Trump is completely false and devoid of journalistic integrity.”
Friedman also said it was hypocritical for our news organization to attribute “to Mr. Trump the motives of a small fringe of extremist supporters without doing the same to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, both of whom count on extreme fringe supporters who have violently attacked attendees at Trump rallies, chanted slogans advocating the murder of police officers, and unabashedly championed a boycott of Israel.”
Violence has no place in politics, anywhere, and we’ve certainly seen in this campaign season too much ugly behavior from all sides. But scuffles at rallies, regrettable though they are, didn’t prompt our moratorium.
It was prompted by the fact that white supremacists who support Trump are hiding behind the relative anonymity of social media – especially Twitter – to stalk, harass and threaten Jewish journalists with offensive anti-Semitic images and rhetoric. And many of the journalists who are targeted are Republicans critical of their party’s presumed nominee, including Bethany Mandel, a regular contributor to this “far left” publication.
So I thank David Friedman for responding to our work, but it’s clear from his statement that the Trump campaign still doesn’t get it. This most unusual candidate has revealed an ugly strain in the American character, and empowered the alt-right’s use of technology to target Jews.
There’s not much a relatively small news organization like ours can do but speak out and withhold our labors to make a statement. I’m glad at least David Friedman noticed. Now it’s time for his boss to do more.
Contact Jane Eisner at Eisner@forward.com Follow her on Twitter, @Jane_Eisner
Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, became editor-in-chief of the Forward in 2008, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward readership has grown significantly and has won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.