Graham grills Hagel on "Jewish lobby" comments

Sen. Lindsey Graham pressed Hagel shortly after he expressed "regret" for the remarks

Published January 31, 2013 7:06PM (EST)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pressed Chuck Hagel about an interview in which Hagel referred to the "Jewish lobby." Graham asked: “Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing by the Israeli, Jewish lobby.”

The comments in question were from 2006, in an interview with Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller. "The political reality is that you intimidate, not you — that the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," Hagel said. "Again, I have always argued against some of the dumb things they do because I don’t think it’s in the interest of Israel. I just don’t think it’s smart for Israel."

In his confirmation hearings Thursday, Hagel again expressed regret for those comments, first in response to questions from Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. “I’ve already said I regret referencing the Jewish lobby,” Hagel said. “I should have said pro-Israel lobby. I think it’s the only time on the record I’ve ever said that.” He added that he should have said "influence," not "intimidate," and "I should not have said ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ because I understand, appreciate there are different views in these things."

Graham was not satisfied. "Name one person who is intimidated by the Jewish lobby," Graham asked Hagel, adding: "Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing by the Israeli, Jewish lobby."

“I don’t know,” Hagel replied.

“Then why did you say it?” Graham asked. "I can't think of a more provocative thing to say."

"The statements you made about Palestinians and about 'the Jewish lobby,' all that together" sends "the worst possible message to our enemies and friends," Graham continued.

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Chuck Hagel Defense Secretary Israel Lindsey Graham Senate Armed Services Committee Video