‘CNN Tonight’ Muddies Waters on Anti-Semitism, Downplays Omar to Bash Trump

To close out Wednesday’s CNN Tonight, fill-in host Erin Burnett, a CNN correspondent, and two panelists spent over 10 minutes trying to muddy the waters on anti-Semitism, downplaying Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s long history of anti-Semitic comments because the President’s Charlottesville comments and white supremacists are the ones worth denouncing (instead of both). 

So, in other words, Orange Man Bad. Good strategy, guys! Supposedly, some forms of anti-Semitism aren’t as bad as the others.

 

 

Burnett started the first of two segments by noting that President Trump fired off a tweet hours earlier blasting Omar and the Democratic Party’s refusal to unequivocally condemn her. 

It was after reading the Trump tweet that she smugly went after Trump as a raging hypocrite, implying he’s okay with anti-Semitism and then keeping the charade going in the first question to far-left commentator and weekend host Van Jones (click “expand”): 

BURNETT: Okay, now, there is a point, but there is also this point, that comment is coming from a person who said there were good people in this group.

CHARLOTTESVILLE PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!

BURNETT: So presumably some of those are good people....[P]ot-kettle-sim is not always the best way to look at the world. However, we just saw what was said there. The President said there were good people on both sides. Obviously, you know, either still believing that or believing he should, you know, that people should have ignored that he said it. How can he make this stand now?

Jones responded that Trump’s “just not a good person to make these kinds of interventions against bias and bigotry because there have been so many acts of bias and bigotry coming from the right that he just hasn't spoken out against forcefully enough” and thus he doesn’t “have the moral credibility to denounce these kinds of things” even though Democrats should be careful to not “give aid and comfort to anti-Jewish bigots.”

Talk about twisting yourself into a pretzel.

Political commentator Alice Stewart was the lone non-liberal on hand and hit all the right points, but it came after this slanted lead-in from Burnett (click “expand”):

And you know, Alice, when you look at the issue here of the President, right, obviously, it was Charlottesville. But on anti-Semitism, you know, this President, we talk often about a dog whistles that he puts out on white supremacy, but when it comes to anti-Semitism, right? He once tweeted out an image once of Hillary Clinton. The “most corrupt candidate ever” was inside the Star of David on top of a pile of cash. Then he was in front of an audience of Republican Jewish Committee members and called them negotiators. He said they wouldn't support him because he didn't want to accept their money which is obviously an inappropriate joke that he made. Then he said don't say I'm anti- Semitic. I have these beautiful Jewish grandbabies, referring to Ivanka's children. Does he have moral authority on this, Alice?

Never Trump darling Max Boot was the last panelist to weigh in and Burnett again tried to tip the scales, blasting Trump as “so flawed” because he “has encouraged anti-Semitic things said, anti-Semitic things, racist things, and misogynistic things regularly.”

Boot eventually tangled with Jones when Boot finally condemned Omar for her ugly comments about Jewish people having dual allegiances to both Israel and the U.S., but again, he made sure to make Trump the real problem:

Yeah, no, of course, Erin, it matters. Look, I have lived in this country for a long time. I never experienced open anti-Semitism until Donald Trump started running for president and all of a sudden, my e-mail inbox and my Twitter account started filling up with this garbage of people sending me pictures, for example, of me in an oven with Trump in an SS uniform pulling the lever to kill me. This became common even. Even though he is very pro-Israel, he is legitimating anti-Semitism on America because he's giving a license to the haters out there, so he has no standing to condemn somebody like Congresswoman Omar[.] 

The issue arose in the show’s final block, but like the previous discussion, it made clear that anti-Semitism from neo-Nazis and white supremacists should be the real discussion (versus Omar). CNN must have been fearful of being accused of being Islamophobic.

Check out the full transcript below, but here’s a snippet (click “expand”):

BURNETT: A new report from the Anti-Defamation League reveals historic increases in the use of hateful propaganda by white supremacists. Such incidents are nearly tripling in just one year That's from 2017 to 2018 and we have more tonight from our Stephanie Elam.

STEPHANIE ELAM: Charlottesville, Virginia, one of the largest demonstrations in recent years by white supremacists.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT: These extremists are exploiting a charged political environment. They’re exploiting a kind of social fragmentation. 

ELAM: But since the Unite the Right rally, many of these hate groups have adjusted their methods to avoid the scrutiny that came after Charlottesville, stepping up their campaign in other tried and true ways, like distributing leaflets and posting flyers. 

To see the relevant transcript from March 6's CNN Tonight, click “expand.”

CNN Tonight
March 6, 2019
11:31 p.m. Eastern

ERIN BURNETT: President Trump slamming House Democrats for not officially condemning Congresswoman Ilhan Omar over her criticism of Israel that has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic. He tweeted, “It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!” Okay, now, there is a point, but there is also this point, that comment is coming from a person who said there were good people in this group.

CHARLOTTESVILLE PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!

BURNETT: So presumably some of those are good people. Joining me now are Alice Stewart, Van Jones, and Max Boot, author of The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right. Perhaps that was among the reasons, Max.

MAX BOOT: That was a big one.

BURNETT: Right, I know, Charlottesville. Van, look, pot-kettle-sim is not always the best way to look at the world. However, we just saw what was said there. The President said there were good people on both sides. Obviously, you know, either still believing that or believing he should, you know, that people should have ignored that he said it. How can he make this stand now?

VAN JONES: Well, he’s unfortunately just not a good person to make these kinds of interventions against bias and bigotry because there have been so many acts of bias and bigotry coming from the right that he just hasn't spoken out against forcefully enough and so unfortunately, you have a commander in chief and a President of the United States that does not have the moral credibility to denounce these kinds of things without having this kind of response from people. At the same time, I think inside the Democratic Party, we're having a bunch of challenges ourselves because there are legitimate concerns and grievances about the way that the government of Israel has conducted itself at times with the Palestinian people.

BURNETT: Yes.

JONES: But how you talk about that is very tricky because you don't want to give aid and comfort to anti-Jewish bigots and as this younger generation tries to raise those concerns, it keeps bumping up against some of these, you know, problems and so the President is kind of taking advantage of some of those internal problems in our party.

BURNETT: And you know, Alice, when you look at the issue here of the President, right, obviously, it was Charlottesville. But on anti-Semitism, you know, this President, we talk often about a dog whistles that he puts out on white supremacy, but when it comes to anti-Semitism, right? He once tweeted out an image once of Hillary Clinton. The “most corrupt candidate ever” was inside the Star of David on top of a pile of cash. Then he was in front of an audience of Republican Jewish Committee members and called them negotiators. He said they wouldn't support him because he didn't want to accept their money which is obviously an inappropriate joke that he made. Then he said don't say I'm anti- Semitic. I have these beautiful Jewish grandbabies, referring to Ivanka's children. Does he have moral authority on this, Alice?

ALICE STEWART: He does and the fact that today the issue is what we're talking about Congresswoman Omar's comments and the President was right. He was right to say we cannot have this type of language. It should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form and there's no place in America for anti-Semitic comments. And look, we can all agree that he didn't handle Charlottesville the way that it should have been handled. But that being said, he has since denounced racist comments. He has said there's no place in — in America for anti-Semitic or racist or hateful language and it shouldn't be tolerated. But Van hit the nail on the head. People can have problems and issues with the policies of Israel, but it doesn't mean you should condone anti-Semitic comments. But this is bigger than Congresswoman Omar. This is the Democratic Party condoning such language and moving so far to the left with regard to this type of hateful language with regard to the Green New Deal, with regard to so many of the policies. If they are going to go so far to the left, that is not where America is going. If that's where the Democratic Party wants to go, they are going to be the party of the past.

BURNETT: Alright, so, I want to ask about that. I want to give Van a chance to respond to that. Max, first of all, does the messenger matter? That the messenger is so flawed. That the messenger has encouraged anti-Semitic things said, anti-Semitic things, racist things, and misogynistic things regularly. Does it matter?

BOOT: Yeah, no, of course, Erin, it matters. Look, I have lived in this country for a long time. I never experienced open anti-Semitism until Donald Trump started running for president and all of a sudden, my e-mail inbox and my Twitter account started filling up with this garbage of people sending me pictures, for example, of me in an oven with Trump in an SS uniform pulling the lever to kill me. This became common even. Even though he is very pro-Israel, he is legitimating anti-Semitism on America because he's giving a license to the haters out there, so he has no standing to condemn somebody like Congresswoman Omar, but at the same time, I'm afraid that the Democrats are giving up the moral high ground because they are hesitating to condemn Congresswoman Omar and there's a difference between condemning Israel which is totally legitimate. I mean, I disagree with a lot of Israeli policies. I don't think the settler makes sense. I think Benjamin Netanyahu is a terrible prime minister. That's totally legitimate, but Congresswoman Omar was going to an ugly place where she was saying that people —

BURNETT: She's repeatedly going to an ugly place.

BOOT: — she is saying that people who support Israel have dual loyalties and that's not a proper thing to say because

JONES: She didn’t say that.

BOOT: — you can, no, that is what she said, Van.

JONES: No.

BURNETT: Allegiance to a foreign country.

BOOT: She said I should not be expected to have allegiance or pledge support to a foreign country and nobody talks about that with supporting England or South Korea or Germany. You can support all those alliances. Nobody ever says you have a dual allegiance in England or South Korea or Germany. They say it about Israel because that is an old anti-Semitic kinard.

JONES: Hold on a second. This is why — how it gets tough. She didn't say dual loyalty. She was —

BOOT: She said it’s right there.

JONES: The words dual loyalty, no, you said dual loyalty interpreting her tweet and that's what I'm saying is that you have a younger generation of people who are coming on. My generation, we were very well educated in trying to deal with bigotry and bias. I'm 50 years old.

BURNETT: Well, look at Van.

JONES: Thank you very, very much. We were very well educated. African-American and Jewish dialogue was a very big deal in the ‘80s and in the ‘90s stuff like that. We’ve backed away from that. Some of the younger people, I think, sometimes don't know that they are crossing these lines. 

BURNETT: Well, they take it for granted because they haven't had to deal with these things.

JONES: All I am saying is if he had said dual loyalty. She had used that actual slur, then I think we’re at a different character. I think that she — I just want to give — you know, I just want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. Trump supporters, everybody. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt to let her learn in public. She did not say dual loyalty.

BOOT: Well, but she —

JONES: — that actual slur. She never said that.

STEWART: But here's the problem — here’s — here’s the problem here.

BOOT: But no, Van, She apologized last month and she keeps on saying it, so it's a concern.

BURNETT: I have to — I have to leave it there. I'm sorry. Thank you all very much.

(....)

11:53 p.m. Eastern

BURNETT: A new report from the Anti-Defamation League reveals historic increases in the use of hateful propaganda by white supremacists. Such incidents are nearly tripling in just one year That's from 2017 to 2018 and we have more tonight from our Stephanie Elam.

STEPHANIE ELAM: Charlottesville, Virginia, one of the largest demonstrations in recent years by white supremacists.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT: These extremists are exploiting a charged political environment. They’re exploiting a kind of social fragmentation. 

ELAM: But since the Unite the Right rally, many of these hate groups have adjusted their methods to avoid the scrutiny that came after Charlottesville, stepping up their campaign in other tried and true ways, like distributing leaflets and posting flyers. 

GREENBLATT: These flyers are not just about finding new members. They are about spreading terror and intimidation and harassing marginalized groups, get their ideas and their ideology, literally, from the margins onto main street.

ELAM: At first glance, these flyers may not seem like hate rhetoric.

GREENBLATT: They try to lure people in by perhaps talking about European culture and how do we preserve what we have here in the face of illegal immigration. So, only when you dig a little bit deeper do you realize you're talking about classic white supremacy. 

ELAM: In 2018, white supremacists increased their propaganda output by nearly 200 percent, with more than 1,100 distributions across the United States according to the Anti-Defamation League. That's compared to 421 incidents the year before. [TO GREENBLATT] Why is using a flyer a beneficial tool for them?

GREENBLATT: What they are trying to do is to spread their poison in ways that don't force them to have to confront people.

ELAM: Protecting their own anonymity in the era of smartphones and social media and while college campuses are often targeted by hate groups, the Anti-Defamation League finds the number of off-campus community propaganda incidents jumped a staggering 572 percent in 2018, while on-campus incidents rose nine percent from 2017. The ADL says these 2018 propaganda distribution counts are by far the highest annual numbers ever.

GREENBLATT: White supremacists try to go where the action is. 

ELAM: The findings also show that rise in hate group propaganda was mainly concentrated in large metropolitan areas, with the highest levels in California, Texas, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Florida and Virginia. It's a way for them to still get their message out, but with a lot less risk. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Stephanie, thank you very much.

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