The New York Times’ reaction to the embarrassing, even sinister anti-Semitic controversies engulfing two freshmen Democrats shows that “whataboutism” -- defined as trying to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without disproving their argument -- is no longer “the last refuge of scoundrels” but is suddenly back in favor among the liberals and the media.
Reporter Mark Landler used Democratic-friendly rhetoric to change the subject and tar Trump -- a strong supporter of Israel -- as the one with the anti-Semitism problem, in Wednesday’s “President Condemns Democrat for Posts About Israel.” The text box: “Criticism from a man who is no stranger to Jewish stereotypes.” The online headline was harsher: “Trump, No Stranger to Jewish Stereotypes, Rejects Ilhan Omar’s Apology.”
President Trump demanded on Tuesday that a freshman lawmaker from Minnesota resign after she posted tweets deemed anti-Semitic even by fellow Democrats, but those tweets echoed some of the same insinuations about Jews and money that he has trafficked in for years, as a candidate and president.
Mr. Trump rejected the apology of Representative Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, saying, “it was lame, and she didn’t mean a word of it.” Ms. Omar, he said, should leave the House or, at a minimum, give up her seat on a coveted committee.
Ms. Omar issued her mea culpa after a bipartisan storm of protest over the tweets, in which she said that the United States’ support for Israel was paid for with money from a pro-Israel lobbying group. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she wrote on Twitter, referring to $100 bills.
Mr. Trump was the latest in a parade of Republicans and Democrats to condemn Ms. Omar. But the president himself has perpetuated stereotypes of Jews using money to buy political influence or of acting as “globalists,” pulling the levers of power for their own enrichment.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s Thursday story “In Surprise Vote, House Republicans Lift Anti-Semitism to Political Issue,” also had a distinct “Republicans pounce” vibe, casting Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both new Democratic congresswomen credibly accused of anti-Semitic actions and statements, as poor, passive victims of cynical Republicans:
The House voted unanimously on Wednesday to condemn anti-Semitism and “all attempts to delegitimize and deny Israel’s right to exist,” adopting language put forth by Republicans who have spent weeks trying to paint two freshman Democrats as anti-Semites and dozens of other Democrats as their enablers.
Stolberg quickly changed the subject from Democratic misdeeds to Republican attacks.
But Democratic leaders are losing patience with a continuing campaign by Republicans to smear Democrats as anti-Semitic when some of their own leaders -- including President Trump -- have trafficked their own anti-Semitic tropes and failed to renounce anti-Semitic followers.
“She apologized for her remarks,” Ms. Pelosi said of Ms. Omar. “I’m still waiting for some of the Republicans to apologize for their ‘Jew-S-A’ chants that they had at their rallies right in front of the president’s face, and he never rejected that.”
Stolberg strained to turn the tables on Republicans.
Democrats say Republicans are being hypocritical. They note that the Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, was himself accused of anti-Semitism in the fall when he said the Jewish billionaires George Soros, Michael R. Bloomberg and Tom Steyer were trying to buy the election.
Mr. Trump, too, has been accused of anti-Semitism. When he was running for office, he posted a tweet showing Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, on a pile of money and a Star of David, calling her the “most corrupt candidate ever!” He later deleted the tweet amid an outcry from those who said he was playing into the anti-Semitic trope about Jews using their money to wield influence.
Trump does it too! Also, it’s an overblown controversy:
The latest war of words over anti-Semitism on Capitol Hill is making some Jewish leaders increasingly uneasy. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, the liberal Jewish lobbying group, said in a recent interview that he worries that charges of anti-Semitism are being thrown around lightly.
The Interpreter’s email newsletter on Thursday (penned by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub) sported this lousy headline: “How Israel helped to bring about an American culture war.”
If you are tired of the endless debates over Representative Ilhan Omar’s tweets calling American support for Israel “all about the Benjamins,” then we have bad news for you. This is just the beginning. The next two years of American politics are all but certain to be filled with vicious, heated debates over Israel.
That lead unintentionally revealed bias. Would a Times reporter assume we were “tired of the endless debates” over Donald Trump and Russian “collusion”? The “tired” trope is an indicator that this is one particular subject the paper doesn’t want to dwell on.
Fisher authored a notoriously falsehood-crammed piece on Israel in December 2017 upon Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital.