The ADL As a News Citation: No Different Than SPLC, NAACP and Other Left-Wing Groups

During the first few months of the Trump presidency, anti-Semitic incidents grabbed headlines, with hundreds of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and Jewish cemeteries vandalized in Philadelphia and other places. Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League were targeted. While these hate crimes are alarming and tragic, the ADL should not be immune from criticism as it is cited persistently in the media in light of its left-wing slant. The use of the ADL in the media is no different than the attributions to leftist groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Moreover, the absence of criticism of the ADL in media outlets is outrageous.

A Nexis search for New York Times articles mentioning the ADL over the last three months shows the organization has been mostly mentioned as a statistical reference regarding hate crimes, and how its offices nationwide were targeted with bomb threats by disgraced reporter Juan Thompson, whom, according to the ADL Center on Extremism Director Oren Segal, had been on the ADL's watch since he was terminated from the blog The Intercept for fabricating quotes in articles.

Nonetheless, the ADL and its director, former Obama adviser Jonathan Greenblatt, has been afforded the spotlight to insert its political two cents in matters far afield from its original mission.

One example is Greenblatt publicly applauding in a statement, cited in the New York Times, the Boy Scouts of America for permitting transgender boys in its troops: "No one should be denied the opportunity to participate in any Boy Scout troop because of their gender identity or expression." While Greenblatt has the right to his opinion, using the ADL pulpit on an issue not related to anti-Semitism is disconcerting. 

Another instance of the ADL interjecting its left-wing voice was over Ami magazine White House correspondent Jake Turx failing to coherently asking the President during his press conference last February about the latest anti-Semitic incidents nationwide. Turx said: 

Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde [Yiddish for "grandfather"]. However, what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There’s been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to——

Trump interrupted Turx and refuted the notion he is anti-Semitic.

At that press conference Turx acted no differently than Jorge Ramos during a press conference during the primary. Unlike Ramos, instead of trying to speak on behalf of Mexican immigrants, Turx tried to speak on behalf of American Jews by making that pandering preface. Turx's failure to frame the question appropriately should not be ignored. He could have succinctly asked the President for his reaction to the latest anti-Semitic incidents nationwide.

Nonetheless, the ADL was taken aback by how Turx was treated by the President and issued a statement: "It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction."

Another instance of ADL displaying its leftist ideology was labeling last September the innocent cartoon character Pepe the Frog, popular in memes, which was appropriated as an alt-right hate symbol. The fashion retailer Zara withdrew a limited-edition skirt line with the character stitched. The New York Times cited the ADL's designation of the cartoon. According to a description on the ADL's website: "Though Pepe memes have many defenders, the use of racist and bigoted versions of Pepe memes seems to be increasing, not decreasing." If there's an increase in animated characters like Kermit the Frog being used by hateful groups, will the ADL label them as "hate symbols?" To quote the viral Kermit the Frog meme: But that's none of my business.

Another disturbing take from the ADL is its opposition to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, but, as quoted by the New York Times, Greenblatt praising Minnesota Democratic Representative Keith Ellison, who has praised the anti-Semite and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, as "an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism." To their credit, the ADL opposed Ellison's nomination as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, But the Times never noticed. The race was won by former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, but Perez quickly made Ellison his deputy.

Even more disturbing, not covered in the mainstream media, is its embrace of people and organizations who represent what the ADL should abhor. For example, at its National Leadership Summit a couple years ago, left-wing groups like Planned Parenthood and the Open Society Foundations -- funded by anti-Israel philanthropist and Jewish apologist George Soros -- were represented. Apparently the ADL is in the left-wing tent of groups like the SPLC, which are admired and promoted by reporters as "anti-hate," but who ardently smear conservative groups like the Family Research Council as "hate groups." What a perversion of its motto "Imagine a World Without Hate." This left-wing problem has been highlighted in outlets outside of mainstream media like Tablet magazine and the Algemeiner.

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Also absent from the mainstream media is Greenblatt's favoritism toward the anti-Israel group J Street, which, as reported in the Washington Times, is funded by Soros, and IfNotNow, which was started by J Street activists like Simon Zimmerman, who was the Jewish outreach coordinator for Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. Regarding J Street, Greenblatt has spoken at their events and claimed that the ADL shares the "same goal" as IfNotNow, and criticized opposition to Greenblatt's stance J Street and said (the response no longer appears ADL's website): "I do not know if [critic Isi] Leibler ever both­ered to attempt to meet these young peo­ple, but I was impressed: They are a group of deeply thought­ful col­lege stu­dents whose com­mit­ment to Israel is gen­uine and whose pas­sion on the issues is impres­sive. Whether Leibler likes it or not, these are future lead­ers in our com­mu­nity and in our country." The right-wing site Front Page Mag reprinted Greenblatt's arrogant refutation.

Finally, the ADL has been relentless in its opposition to the Trump administration. In the aftermath of a Jewish cemetery vandalized just outside of St. Louis (which Vice President visited and helped cleaned up in addition to condemning hateful acts like this one), the New York Times cited Segal, who said, "“We’ve never had this level of anti-Semitism — from different places on the ground, on your phone, literally over the phone — come at a time when hate groups and white supremacists, in particular, felt they had a champion in the highest office.”

Similar to Allen's argument in the Weekly Standard, journalists should not treat the ADL as authoritative because of its leftist colors of a spectrum whose members publicly show anything but tolerance.

PS: For reporters to cite sources like the SPLC is an afront to journalism ethics. Weekly Standard contributor Charlotte Allen wrote last month:

"The SPLC's Hatewatch" is quite upfront about its lack of interest in the hate activities of, for example, the militant "anti-fascists" who trashed the University of California-Berkeley campus in February in order to prevent Milo Yiannopolous from speaking there. Hatewatch "monitors and exposes the activities of the American radical right," its web page says. Another SPLC page lists "extremists," both individuals and groups, and it is there that Murray appears, along with such disparate figures as David Duke, Holocaust denier David Irving, and David Horowitz, the Communist-turned-conservative editor of Front Page.

Allen added, "The idea that the SPLC offers neutral expertise on extremism is laughable. It has been a fund-raising Colossus for decades thanks to its genius at apocalyptic direct-mail, in which the Klan and other "hate groups" are always one donation away from taking over the country. Reporters should be ashamed of treating it as an arbiter of respectability." 

Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman
Jackson Richman is contributing writer for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division