The question of newfound Jewishness

The George Allen campaign is exploiting accusations of anti-Semitism.

Published September 21, 2006 9:45PM (EDT)

Right-wing pundits have been milking and exploiting the story of George Allen's very recent discovery of his mother's Jewish background in order to claim that the campaign of James Webb and the media are both behaving improperly, and are somehow even engaging in anti-Semitism. The anti-Semitism accusations in particular are being fueled by the Allen campaign itself.

The Allen campaign's official paid blogger, Jon Henke, accused Webb yesterday, on the Allen campaign's blog, of "anti-Semitic campaign tactics." Today, Henke complains that "the Allen family's very painful and personal history has been turned into a political game by critics and opponents." (Incidentally, Henke -- before he was hired last month to blog for the campaign as a result of a series of posts he wrote defending Allen's use of "macaca" -- was regularly advocating on his own blog that there be a Democratic takeover of Congress as a means of restraining unprincipled and corrupt Republicans. Does radically changing one's political views in exchange for some pay by a political candidate forever undermine, or destroy, one's credibility as a political commentator? It ought to).

Meanwhile, writing at the National Review, David Frum claims that the whole episode reveals how fundamentally biased the media is against Republicans because, according to Frum, the media refused to scrutinize a similar discovery by John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign that he had Jewish ancestors. But only the most minimal amount of recall -- or the most minimal amount of research -- is required to know how false Frum's claims are. The Inactivist blog compiled today several media reports, including from the Boston Globe and the New York Times, demonstrating how aggressively the media explored the question of Kerry's newfound Jewishness.

In fact, as the Inactivist points out, the Globe engaged in efforts far more extensive to investigate Kerry's background than anyone has done with regard to Allen's, and ran a series of articles inquiring whether Kerry was deceitful about his ethnic background. From one of the Times articles on this issue: "The Boston Globe hired a genealogist to untangle Mr. Kerry's roots and discovered that his grandfather, Frederick A. Kerry, who came to this country in 1905, was born as Fritz Kohn, the son of Jewish parents, in what was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mr. Kohn converted to Catholicism when he changed his name to Kerry in 1902."

As Inactivist points out, the National Review itself published an article about Kerry's background, ominously observing: "While Massachusetts voters have long assumed that Kerry was a good Irish name, their junior senator is actually no more Irish than Shaquille O'Neal. Perhaps even less." Frum's petulant allegation that the media failed to explore this same issue when Kerry was running for president (thus proving the media's anti-Republican bias) is so erroneous that it ought to be retracted and corrected by the National Review. And it is difficult to recall a more irresponsible exploitation for political gain of anti-Semitism accusations than those being tossed around by an increasingly desperate Allen campaign.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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