During an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday, Rabbi David Nesenoff, known for exposing Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic views, informed viewers that, up until now, he has considered himself to be a liberal Democrat – who even opposed the Iraq War and supported Barack Obama – but now asserts that "I have to really reevaluate liberal and conservative and really find out where I stand because I think I've been a little blind."
As Nesenoff recounted that he had previously agreed with Thomas in her opposition to the war in Iraq, and her challenging of President Bush on the matter, he now sees himself as unknowingly being allied with people who think that "Israel and the Jewish people don't have a connection." Before being interrupted by host Howard Kurtz, Nesenoff began to explain his evolution of thought:
They’re accusing me of being some right-wing ambusher, and it really rocked my world because I have to reevaluate my life and my standing in the agendas because, yeah, I’m a New York Democrat Jewish liberal supporter of Obama, donated to his candidacy for a year, said give him a chance ... watched all these liberal media, and now I have to reevaluate ... I have to now speak to people with all different agendas because if I was part of a team where their agenda was that Israel and the Jewish people don’t have a connection – which is exactly what Helen Thomas said – there’s no connection, why are they even there-
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Sunday, June 13, Reliable Sources on CNN:
HOWARD KURTZ: Did you have any idea when you took out that video camera and asked Helen Thomas that question that she was hostile toward Israel?
RABBI DAVID NESENOFF, RABBILIVE.COM: I didn’t approach her thinking that. Now that I see a lot of things in the news, I certainly can review and see that she’s had a lot of different thoughts, but, of course, there might be anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian. That’s very different than anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish and wanting to cleanse a piece of land, so, up until this point, this is just an individual who is pro-Palestinian. People should look out for the Palestinian rights. Everybody should look out for everybody’s rights, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
KURTZ: As you know, Helen Thomas has been a longtime institution here in the capital, she’s a heroine to many female journalists, and some people are blaming you for ending her career.
NESENOFF: Yeah, you know, I received about 25,000 hate mail, you know, emails, and, more shocking than even that, is the hate media that I’m beginning to learn about – you know, from TV and newspapers and blogs and talk shows and entertainers, and they’re accusing me of being some right-wing ambusher, and have to, it kind of rocked my world a little because I have to kind of reevaluate my life and my standing and the agendas because, yeah, I’m a New York Democrat Jewish liberal supporter of Obama, donated to his candidacy for a year, said give him a chance, give him a chance, defended, watched all these liberal media, and now I have to reevaluate totally, I have to speak, I have to now speak to people with all different agendas because if I was part of a team where their agenda was that Israel and the Jewish people don’t have a connection – which is exactly what Helen Thomas said – that there’s no connection, why are they even there-
KURTZ: Well, let me interrupt you. What do you mean when you say "hate media"? I mean, obviously, you find yourself in the middle of this firestorm. Do you feel that journalists, programs, commentators have been personally unfair to you? And can you explain how?
NESENOFF: You know, I find people that don’t cover the story or people that cover the story are so upset they don’t know what to do, so they have to attack me and find, maybe we’ll say he did something on purpose or he filmed it a certain way, or we’ll find out what did he do in his past. I mean, they don’t know what to do with it, but why don’t they actually ask me and find out maybe I liked Helen Thomas and I was actually for the fact that she went ahead and spoke to President Bush and said, you know, watch it with the Iraq War, although now I understand – and we have to reevaluate – that maybe what she then was protesting the Iraq War, I was saying that because I didn’t want our soldiers to be in harm’s way. And it turns out she didn’t want the Iraqis to be in harm’s way. So we have to, kind of, I have to really reevaluate liberal and conservative and really find out where I stand because I think I’ve been a little blind.
KURTZ: Well, I have to say you asked her the least loaded question of all time: "Any thoughts on Israel?" On the other hand, you find yourself now questioning whether the media can be fair, particularly on this sort of charged issue involving the Middle East. You clearly feel put upon.
NESENOFF: Sure, look, I didn’t hear anybody speak about instead of reviewing Helen’s career, why don’t we review all the things she reported on and see how it was affected by what she said about Israel and the Jewish people not having any connection, what are they doing there? So now when you start with that core that they have no, you know, relationship, now we should back up and look through what she’s been telling the American public.
KURTZ: What about all this electronic hate mail – you’ve posted some of these on your Web site talking about dirty Jews and Hitler – what’s your reaction to all of this ugliness that you seem to have inadvertently unleashed?
NESENOFF: Right, you know, it’s interesting because RabbiLive.com has on it some really uncensored material right now that’s very strong. What it does, first of all, it stops a lot of times people from sending hate mail. It shows us what’s on people’s minds out there. And it has caused a lot of beautiful Christians and Jews and people throughout the entire world all over to send beautiful mail saying, "Hey, don’t get the wrong idea. There are great people and wonderful people in this country and there are great people around the world who love the Jewish people, that understand there is a connection between the Jews and Israel, we will not deny that," and so there’s a mixed bag, it’s kind of some good feelings have come out of it also. Certainly the security issues are being taken care of.
KURTZ: I’m glad there’s a positive aspect as well. I’ve got about half a minute. What was your personal reaction when you found out that Helen Thomas had resigned as a result of you videotaping?
NESENOFF: I have absolutely no issue or relationship with Helen Thomas. My relationship is with justice, integrity and honesty, and with Israel, and the fact that the Jewish people and Israel have a relationship and that anybody that denies the relationship cannot begin the communication and the conversation about how to deal with the other problems. How can we talk about Gaza or east Jerusalem or Golan or anything else anybody wants to talk about if the core issue of Jews in Israel is denied? And Jeff Goldberg said it, that our existence isn’t even around.