C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal’ – Home of the Anti-Jewish Lunatic Fringe
By Eric Rozenman and Myron Kaplan
C-SPAN has given the lunatic fringe an establishment address. It’s the cable network’s “Washington Journal” program, on which anti-Israel, anti-Jewish bigots generally get an uncritical reception.
The daily broadcast’s alternating group of moderators often interviews newsmaker guests or specialists and gives callers a chance to ask questions. Often, the questions become antisemitic rants.
On an August 16 “Washington Journal” segment, the subject was “Is the Afghanistan war winnable?” The host was C-SPAN’s Paul Orgel. “Darrell” (he also often uses the name “Bill”) called from St. Louis:
“The war is unwinnable. It’s unwinnable because the Afghanistan people have nothing to do with 9/11. If you want to bomb somebody for 9/11, then you need to go to Israel. They were the ones that were behind 9/11.”
To this “Truther” conspiracy theory claim and a similar one by caller “Ken” from Virginia four minutes earlier – that Israel’s Mossad (or perhaps the Mossad and FBI or CIA together) either had prior knowledge of but did not counter the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon or committed them directly – Orgel says nothing.
Callers like “Darrell/Bill” and “Ken” frequently phone “Washington Journal,” perhaps because they know C-SPAN often airs, uncontradicted anti-Jewish lunacy such as theirs.
Just the day before, the ostensible subject was “becoming an American citizen,” with guest Sonal Verma, chair of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Yusuf” of Atlanta called and, like other anti-Jewish ranters, hijacked the discussion:
“I think we should let all the Mexicans, we should let all the Haitians, all the Jamaicans, we should let all of them into the country because this is God’s land … And so, if we can allow them to come in, then we can really find out and fight those Jews, who really are behind this stuff and really divide the people with immigration …”
Host Steve Scully did not cut off or contradict Yusuf. He just stammered a request for clarification. “Wai-wai-wai-wai-wait. Why did you say that, caller?”
Yusuf “explains:” “Why do I say that? Look up the history of the Jews. And anytime there’s anything Jewish, y’all cut people off. Y’all do not hear people [indistinct].”
Scully denies that C-SPAN keeps antisemites from having their say and again invites Yusuf to expand on his derangement: “No. I would say the same for any ethnic or religious group. I’m just trying to get a sense of the thinking.”
Happy to give a sense of his “thinking,” Yusuf insists that “if you look at the history of them, they have always divided the people. They have always divided people by race, by color, by finances. So really, it’s the Jews behind all this stuff. Ain’t no such thing as immigration [indistinct] should allow everybody into this country. Because if everybody goes back to their original land, where would the Jews be at?” Far too late, Scully cuts off the call.
Occasionally a “Washington Journal” caller is so blatantly Judeophobic that C-SPAN’s host cuts him or her off almost immediately – but without making clear that antisemitism is the reason. For example, on an August 6 segment, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger was the guest, “Implementing the [new federal] health care law in [the] states” the topic. “Ralph” from Hartford questions the guest: “Mr. Kroger, I was just wondering, are you Jewish?”
Host Peter Slen asks, “Why does that matter? Caller, seriously, why does that matter?”
“Excuse me?” “Ralph” replies, at which point Slen says, “Why does that matter? We’re talking about health care,” and aborts the call. “We’re just going to move on. That’s certainly inconsequential. It’s so unnecessary.”
Of course, the guest’s religion is inconsequential to his views on states’ implementation of federal health insurance law. But Slen – like virtually all “Washington Journal” hosts – fails to assert that what is not just “unnecessary” but also intolerable is the antisemitic implication behind the question.
On August 1, the subject was “Congressional agenda for August recess,” the guests Patricia Murphy of Politics Daily and Kathleen Hunter of Roll Call magazine. Host Scully took a call by “Debby” from Los Angeles, another of C-SPAN’s frequent anti-Jewish, anti-Israel phoners. She last called on July 17 as “Camilla” from Reseda, Calif.:
“Hi. You were talking about ethics and the Ethics Committee. How come no one is bringing this up: on anti-war dot com there’s an article entitled, “Who bought off General Petraeus?” No one addresses this issue. How come no one is addressing this? He’s been bought off by the neocons – you know – the Israeli lobby, AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the registered pro-Israel lobby] is pushing us into more wars in the Middle East. And you can see more articles on that on America-hijacked dot com. Thank you for taking my call.”
As is often the case, a frequent anti-Israel caller is allowed to a) violate C-SPAN’s ostensible “one-call-per-thirty-days” rule; b) go completely off-topic; c) make preposterous anti-Israel and anti-Jewish claims (“the neocons – you know – the Israeli lobby, AIPAC is pushing us into more wars in the Middle East”); and, d) cite fringe anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli websites. The host sits silently, and “Washington Journal” technicians don’t cut off the caller.
C-SPAN hosts and executives still resist what one guest, syndicated columnist Mona Charen, urged on May 10, 2009, after “Rachel” from Brentwood, Calif. alleged that all President Obama’s cabinet members have been picked by AIPAC:
“C-SPAN gets these calls all the time. They are out there, obviously, in force. It’s an ugly thing – this tendency to call up and demonize Jews and demonize Israel. It happens constantly. I just wish that more people, when it happens, instead of ignoring it, would call people out on it and say that it’s over the line and unacceptable.”
Since November 2008, “Washington Journal” has aired, usually uncritically, more than two hundred anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli smears and rants. The people generally ignoring them, the people failing to challenge bigots and affirm that their anti-Jewish, anti-Israel conspiracy theories are over the line and unacceptable, are the program’s hosts and C-SPAN executives. Blacks, Hispanics, women, homosexuals, Christians, Muslims, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans – no other religious, ethnic, or other U.S. minority group is subject to similar, chronic vituperation on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Why this intolerable exception when it comes to defaming Jewish Americans?
Eric Rozenman and Myron Kaplan are, respectively, Washington director and senior broadcast media analyst for the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).