When good people say bad things
7/20/2000 12:00:00 AM - Larry Elder
In the movie, "The Godfather," the godfather's consigliere, played by Robert Duvall, goes to Hollywood. Duvall attempts to get a producer to cast a family friend and singer in an important movie. The producer resents being strong-armed. He insists the family friend will never get in the movie, warning Duvall, "I don't care how many dago guinea wop greaseball goombahs come out of the woodwork!" Duvall tells the producer that, no, his heritage is German-Irish. Without missing a beat, the producer promptly calls Duvall a "Kraut-Mick."
What's the point? The producer wanted to demean Duvall, thus the derisive epithets. And when he found out that Duvall was not Italian, no problem. He quickly changed the denunciation to make it applicable to Duvall's heritage.
This brings us to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's alleged anti-Semitic remark. In an unauthorized biography, "State of a Union: Inside the Complex Marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton," former National Enquirer reporter Jerry Oppenheimer accuses Hillary of referring to Bill Clinton's former campaign manager as "a (bleeping) Jew bastard." Angry because Bill lost his congressional race, Hillary blamed the campaign manager.
Ms. Clinton, running for the Senate in New York, denies the remark. She'd better, because analysts call the large Jewish vote vital. Jewish Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., dismisses the allegation, "I've known Hillary Clinton for eight years, and she doesn't have an anti-Semitic bone in her body."
Schumer need not worry. For, when "good guys" like Hillary say bad things, the media applies a different standard. Yes, the remark allegedly occurred some 25 years ago. And, yes, the Clintons have Jewish friends and many members of the Clinton administration are Jewish. But even if that weren't the case, Hillary benefits from a media double standard.
When Dick Armey called Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank "Barney Fag," the media had a field day. An apology promptly followed. And, following a victory, black former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown said, "Those white boys got taken, fair and square." No apology demanded, none followed. When Jesse Jackson referred to Jews as "Hymies" and New York as "Hymie-town," he first denied the remark. When Washington Post reporter Milton Coleman insisted Jackson made the remark, however, the reverend finally owned up to the slur. But Jackson called it an "error," and said, "Charge it to my head ... not to my heart." Now it is seldom mentioned.
New York's Rev. Al Sharpton called Jews "diamond merchants," and spoke of "white interlopers" who, he felt, did not belong in the minority community. Again, no problem. Indeed, presidential contenders Al Gore and Bill Bradley, during the Harlem presidential debate, showered praise on Sharpton, noting how much the reverend had "grown." Never mind that Sharpton falsely accused former Dutchess County, N.Y., Assistant State Attorney General Steven Pagones of raping Tawana Brawley. Pagones, along with his daughter, received death threats following Sharpton's accusation. When Pagones claimed innocence, Sharpton challenged Pagones to sue for defamation. Pagones did, and won. Sharpton refuses to pay one dime, apparently transferring his assets into his wife's name. As for an apology, fuggedaboudit.
Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager, referred to the Republican Party as the party of the "white boys." No apology demanded, none offered. And in his book, "The Dark Side of Camelot," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Seymour Hersh says that President Kennedy referred to African countries as "boogie republics."
During his presidential run, Arizona Sen. John McCain referred to his North Vietnamese former captors as "gooks." McCain apparently used the word many times over the course of several months, but only later did a reporter divulge the remark. What took so long? Well, remember, the media loved "maverick" John McCain, the non-Republican Republican. Similarly, the campaign manager at whom Hillary Clinton allegedly directed the anti-Semitic remark says he told reporters about the incident years ago. Yet no one, until now, published it.
All right. Assuming Hillary made the remark, what do we make of it? One of Bill Clinton's key former advisers was Dick Morris, a Jew. And Rahm Emanuel served as Clinton's chief domestic policy adviser. Clinton works with and has appointed several Jews to his administration.
On the infamous Watergate tapes, Richard Nixon made anti-Semitic remarks. Yet Nixon appointed the first Jewish secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. William Safire, a Jew, was an important Nixon speechwriter, and Leonard Garment served as Nixon's counsel.
In a letter, President Harry Truman referred to New York as "Kike-town." Yet Truman aggressively pushed for the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
People in anger say intemperate, insensitive and demeaning things. This is no justification. But fair-minded people look at one's history, background, friends, and actions before branding the speaker a bigot.
Fair is fair, and we should apply the same standard whether the speaker is Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, or for that matter, John Rocker.