The Defamation League
Jude Wanniski
November 4, 1999


Yes, Abe, I admit that a year ago I wrote a memo to Howard Berkowitz, president of the ADL, recommending that he fire you for being moderately evil. What got me at the time was your full-page ad in the NYTimes, which condemned Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press for having Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam as his guest the previous Sunday. It was the 5th anniversary of the Million Man March, which seemed a good reason to invite Min. Farrakhan, but your advertisement implied that NBC and Russert were edging dangerously close to anti-Semitism, just a whiff, as the editorialists at the NYTimes might put it -- as they did a few days ago when sniffing Pat Buchanan's candidacy for the Reform Party nomination. Which brings me to my point, Abe. I notice in Wednesday's NYTimes there is a paid advertisement on the op-ed page that asks readers to judge for themselves:

IS HE OR ISN'T HE A BIGOT? YOU DECIDE. The words of Pat Buchanan

I immediately assumed that you and the ADL officially had taken out the ad and paid for it, but no, it was paid for by Howard Berkowitz, your president, with not a word identifying him as such. A few dozen other men and women were listed as the sponsors of the ad. But it dawned on me that because Buchanan is a declared candidate for a recognized political party, you might lose your tax exemption if you used ADL monies to slur and slander Pat by identifying him as a BIGOT. Then again, maybe it was all very innocent. Maybe Howard Berkowitz, who I have known for 20 years as a decent and honorable man, really did decide on his own to slur and slander Pat, a friend of mine for 30 years, who "does not have an anti-Semitic bone in his body," which is how Jack Kemp put it, in an interview a few years ago. If so, then I would suggest, Abe, that you take out an ad in the NYTimes -- or at least write a letter -- criticizing your President, Mr. Berkowitz, for throwing defamatory mud at a serious candidate for President. To criticize Buchanan for being in favor of higher tariffs for China or for having opposed the bombing of Serbia is fair game. But to defame him with charges of bigotry, even framed as questions, is something the ADL should never, ever tolerate, whether aimed at Christian, Muslim or Jew. Right? Incidentally, although Pat is a friend, I have not endorsed his candidacy yet, because of differences I have with him on a variety of issues not bearing upon this question of "bigotry."

What questions did Berkowitz pose in his BIGOTRY litmus test. Let's review:

"About Hitler and David Duke: ‘Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core... he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier's soldier in the Great War, a leader steeped in the history of Europe.'"

Howard Berkowitz does not identify the source of the quote, which is from Pat's book, A Republic, Not an Empire, nor does Howard put it in context. For Howard, it is not enough for Pat to say Hitler was indeed "racist and anti-Semitic to the core," the bigotry inferred has to do with Pat saying Hitler was not a draft-dodger... when in fact the record indicates he was a man other men admired for his manly attributes. If Pat had written Hitler was an effeminate coward, one supposes Howard would castigate Pat for defaming the gay community.

Appended to this headline about "David Duke," there is another quote, which does not come from the book, but from one of the zillions of radio/tv commentaries Pat has participated in during the last 35 years of his public life: "David Duke is busy stealing from me. I have a mind to go down there and sue that dude for intellectual property theft."

Now Abe, surely you would have to admit that this is disgusting defamation. There is no context at all. Just Pat Buchanan making a comment on the air that David Duke, a certifiable racist/bigot, was saying something that Pat was saying, and Pat was joking about it. If you looked into this slander by Berkowitz, you will surely find that David Duke was stealing material from Pat that moved him away from bigotry.

Next: About Blacks, Berkowitz quotes Pat: "In the late 1940's and 1950's... race was never a preoccupation with us, we rarely thought about it... There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The ‘Negroes' of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds and churches and we had ours." Then: "now, ‘the African-Americans' of the 90's demand racial quotas and set asides, as the Democrats eagerly assent and a pandering GOP prepares to go along. Who speaks for the European-Americans, who founded the USA?... Is it not time to take America back?"

Now Abe, you must admit that Berkowitz is shameful in his juxtaposition of quotes. Disgusting, I would add. The quote implies that Pat thinks the period of his youth was the ideal, when he was simply describing the way things were. Then Howard leaps to another quote from Pat, in a different context, which argues against racial quotas and set-asides -- which is what the Jewish community itself has been fighting all along, because American Jews are such a small percentage of the total population and would be at the end of the line if quotas and set-asides for blacks were the order of the day. One of the reasons Pat connects so easily with Lenora Fulani -- the "Marxist black radical who openly admires Louis Farrakhan," is that she -- and Farrakhan -- are opposed to giving black men something for nothing, which only destroys their character. In other words, this is entirely in the realm of civilized discourse, with nothing that can be construed as "bigotry." It is pure politics.

Next: About Women: Pat is quoted: "Rail as they will against ‘discrimination,' women are simply not endowed by nature with the same single-minded ambition and the will to succeed in the fiercely competitive world of Western capitalism... the momma bird builds the nest. So it was, so ever shall it be."

The only point I would disagree with Pat here is with his phrase "endowed by nature." This suggests a genetic connection with competitiveness, when in fact it is entirely behavioral, and dependent upon the upbringing of each man and each woman. In my own family, I identify my father as the "alpha male," but give my mother's mother -- my grandmother -- as being the most fundamentally "competitive." In that sense, our particular extended family was matriarchal, even though my grandmother built the nest. There is a fine point here, but nothing that should warrant a NYTimes paid ad charge of bigotry by your president, Abe.

Finally, About Jews: Pat is quoted: "After World War II, Jewish influence over foreign policy became almost an obsession with American leaders." And "Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory."

Abe... Do you vote for BIGOTRY on Pat's part because of these two quotes??? He is exactly right! Jewish guilt over being relatively passive in the 1930s and 1940s -- Jews at the time not knowing whether to support Stalin or Hitler -- led to a postwar resolve to defend Israel whatever it took, and to use whatever resources were available to it to control American foreign policy to that end. If the line you quote were attributed to Elie Weisel, you would purr softly and exult. But because Buchanan said these words, his is bigoted. And hey, Pat's comment about "Israeli-occupied territory" was a line stolen from Senator J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Both political parties are under the thumb of the Israeli Lobby... which includes the "Jewish Lobby." Is this bigotry? -- coming from a man, Buchanan, who has been a lifelong Zionist, a supporter of the state of Israel?

A year ago, Abe, I recommended that Berkowitz fire you for being at the cutting edge of defamation. Now, I call upon you to urge Howard to resign. Either that, or change the name of your organization to: "The Defamation League."