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The NRCC is accusing Democrats of antisemitism — including Jewish members of Congress

National Republican Campaign Committee chair Rep. Tom Emmer
In June, National Republican Campaign Committee chair Rep. Tom Emmer told Politico his staff has a “direct mandate” from himself and Republican leadership to “to be ruthless.”

The House campaign arm of the Republican party has made name-calling a part of its strategy for 2020.

National Republican Congressional Committee chair Rep. Tom Emmer, of Minnesota’s Sixth District, has made it clear in interviews that party leadership endorses the effort. In June, Emmer told Politico his staff has a “direct mandate” from himself and Republican leadership to “to be ruthless.”

As part of this campaign of ruthlessness, they’ve called House Democrats “deranged” and “socialists.” (A lot.) They’ve called Minnesota’s Collin Peterson “cranky.”

They’ve also called House Democrats “anti-semitic.”

In the wake of comments about The American Israel Public Affairs Committee by Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota’s Fifth District, that were criticized by some Jewish groups as playing on stereotypes about Jews, the NRCC press releases came fast and furious: not aimed just at Omar, but on any of her Democratic colleagues who didn’t condemn her remarks and demand her removal from the House Foreign Affairs committee. No Democrats had asked for her removal and the messages from the Republicans argued that Democrats’ non-condemnation of Omar amounted to antisemitism.

One big problem with leveling the charges of antisemitism far and wide: several of the House Democrats labeled as antisemitic are a themselves Jewish. And Rep. Emmer is not.

Dean Phillips
Rep. Dean Phillips
Intra-state collegiality didn’t protect Emmer’s colleague, Third District Rep. Dean Phillips, from being targeted with such an accusation. Phillips, who comes from a prominent Jewish family in Minnesota, was not amused: “I’m a business person and I happen to be of the Jewish faith. I’m certainly not antisemitic and I’m not a socialist,” he said, noting that such language might be an effective tactic.

“But we should hold ourselves to higher standards in this country. Both parties. And that’s just a woeful example of I think dangerous rhetoric that makes this country a more dangerous place for a lot of people.”

Rep. Max Rose of Staten Island, also accused of antisemitism, was more explicit about where he places blame: “As the first Jewish congressman from Staten Island, it’s downright disgusting for Congressman Emmer’s NRCC to question my faith. This isn’t a joke or partisan game to me because across the country, we’ve seen Jews murdered in synagogues or sucker punched because they were wearing a kippah,” Congressman Max Rose told MinnPost.

“I’ve condemned people in both parties who have made anti-Semitic comments, but Emmer can’t find his Twitter password or a microphone when someone on the right traffics in antisemitism. What a disgrace.”

Politicizing antisemitism

Jewish organizations have concerns about Republicans’ wanton use of accusations of antisemitism to attack political opponents.

David Goldenberg, the Midwest Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League, said that using antisemitism for politcal gain or saying that it is limited to one political party makes it harder to confront antisemitism.

“Politicizing antisemitism, both within and between political parties, is dangerous and undermines broader efforts to confront this growing problem. We expect more from our elected officials,” said Goldenberg.

Stefanie Fox, Deputy Director at Jewish Voice for Peace, noted “It’s incredibly important to recognize that actual antisemitism is on the rise, and clearly connected to the rise of white nationalism embraced by the White House – from the adoption of antisemitic tropes by right wing officials, to the murderous attacks spurred on by that language.

“But we also have to recognize that many of the key actors promulgating hatred against Jewish people are simultaneously using Jewish communities as a shield for their racist political agendas.”

State Sen. Sandy Pappas
State Sen. Sandy Pappas
Some also object to the conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism. Sandy Pappas, a Jewish legislator who represents District 65 in the Minnesota Senate, said that criticism is simply a part of being a concerned citizen.

“What the Republicans are doing, and others are saying: ‘To be critical of Israel is antisemitic.’ And I think that’s not true. I think we can still be supportive of Israel and not antisemitic and critical of Israel,” said Pappas.

“If you’re critical of the U.S. are you anti-America? No, not necessarily. You’re just critical of certain practices and certain actions by certain officials in America.”

Isaiah Breen, who is the Communications Director for Jewish Community Action Minnesota, echoed that sentiment: “It should be self-evident, I think, that disagreeing with the political or military decisions of a different country, or our own government’s support of those policies, isn’t antisemitic. Especially absurd to even suggest that American Jews who do are antisemitic,” said Breen.

“But there are tons of people, especially on the right, and especially among non-Jews, [saying] that they’re the same thing. And besides the obvious absurdity of this argument, it’s also itself potentially antisemitic. Equating American Jews to Israelis, something President Trump has done on numerous occasions, is a classic example of otherizing Jews. Making them out to be different or separate from other Americans.”

Chris Pack, the Communications Director at the NRCC, did not explicitly address how the NRCC defines antisemitism as or if he thinks Jewish members can be antisemitic. Instead he said in part:

“With antisemitism on the rise, it’s important for all sides to be sensitive with regards to this serious issue. It is also important for all sides to hold those accountable who turn a blind eye to the anti-Semites within the House Democratic conference.”

Antisemitic messaging

Breen, who also previously served as Keith Ellison’s press secretary, said that antisemitism is a problem for both parties. But he also said it’s much more of a problem on the right. And he said it rarely gets covered with the same level of scrutiny as with Democrats, because reporters often feel uncomfortable without a false balance.

“We had a county level Republican party share a meme that compared Bernie Sanders to Adolf Hitler. And you had [Congressman] Hagedorn and Keith Ellison’s opponent Doug Wardlow going on conservative talk radio and talking about, ‘We need to get all of our people to turn out, because George Soros is stealing the election,’” said Breen. “And you had Trump pushing out campaign ads about shadowy bankers and globalists.”

The ad that Breen is referencing was actually run by the NRCC last year, before Emmer became chair, and used several antisemitic tropes. Although they ran in several places, one ad that ran in Minnesota’s 1st District depicted an image of George Soros, who is Jewish and also one of the larger Democratic donors, with money flowing around him.

“Look at who finances Dan Feehan’s employer,” the NRCC ad says. “Radical George Soros, Wall Street’s biggest banks, a crooked lobbyist tied to Pelosi.”

The ad itself was targeted at Dan Feehan, who was running against Jim Hagedorn in the First District. In an interview, Feehan described the messages he saw then as “geared toward division and antisemitism.”

“Certainly under the leadership of Rep. Emmer they’ve made very clear that they’re doubling down on truly the hateful rhetoric, division centered messages that have absolutely nothing to do with policies whatsoever,” he said.

One NRCC ad that ran in Minnesota’s 1st District depicted an image of George Soros, who is Jewish and also one of the larger Democratic donors, with money flowing around him.
Phillips said that he is worried about how antisemitism is being used in the political conversation and is explicitly calling on the NRCC to stop.

“I’m seeing is a weaponization of antisemitism that is just as dangerous and just as destructive as antisemitism itself. And you know, I have called on those in positions of power in the NRCC and the Republican Party to recognize the implications,” Phillips said.

“It creates danger and it creates division. And I think it’s unhealthy and inappropriate and wrong.”

Comments (34)

  1. Submitted by Elaine Frankowski on 08/02/2019 - 10:28 am.

    My bona fides to comment on the NRCC’s political use of anti-semitism: I am Jewish, a synagogue member, a Hebrew teacher, a Zionist, a frequent visitor to Israel and a frequent critic of Israeli actions and politics.

    Now, false accusations of anti-semitism rev up the real anti-semites to the point where they paint anti-semitic slogans on elementary school doors, vandalize synagogues and, finally, break into services and slaughters Jews.

    Never mind the sleaziness of accusing Jews of being anti-semitic. Stop inciting others to do real harm to Jews. Or, possibly, is that what all the accusations are about.

  2. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 08/02/2019 - 10:29 am.

    Emmer and his ilk will throw all the insulting terms (socialist, anti-Semite, deranged) they can think of to avoid addressing real issues. This latest claim of anti-Semitism is particularly ironic given that the hotbed of anti-Semitism in this country – white nationalist, alt-right, and neo-Nazis – are firmly in the Republican camp. You know: “good people on both sides”.

    In their attempts to be “ruthless”, they have shown themselves to be devoid of honesty, integrity, and decency. Or, as my mother would say, “just dreck”.

  3. Submitted by Gene Nelson on 08/02/2019 - 10:32 am.

    Humored and disappointed at the deceit from Emmer and repubs who ignored the whites in Charlottesville carrying tiki torches shouting “Jews will not replace us”. But to criticize Israel for their inhumane practices is being anti-Semitic.
    Racism and anti-semitism, sadly, is alive and deplorable in today’s repub party.

  4. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 08/02/2019 - 10:46 am.

    Well when you’ve got nothing to run on and an orange buffoon as your leader I guess you’ve got get a little creative at finding ways to get people to vote for you. Hatred and bigotry has worked for them in the past, so Republicans a doubling and tripling down on it this season.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/02/2019 - 10:47 am.

    When facts and logic don’t support your arguments, call your opponents names. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Republican Party platform in the Trump / McConnell / Emmer era. Not ideas. Not “conservatism” in any form that a genuine political philosopher would recognize. Insults and smear tactics take the place of policies, or, to be more accurate, denigration of their opponents IS the Republican platform. They are otherwise intellectually bankrupt.

    Mr. Emmer, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Trump have all drunk deeply from the trough of political power, and if name-calling will enable them to have continued access to the Kool-Aid, then name-calling will be their signature campaign strategy. They are children and bullies. Jennifer Carnahan should be ashamed to be associated with them.

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/02/2019 - 10:53 am.

    “[Rep] Emmer told Politico his staff has a “direct mandate” from himself and Republican leadership to “to be ruthless.””

    In other words, it’s not about anti-semitism, or socialism, or even policy for that matter. It’s about winning elections, in the pursuit of which, apparently, anything goes.

    • Submitted by Greg Claflin on 08/03/2019 - 08:38 am.

      Emmet, a so called representative from my state who proposed a bill to take away my state’s say in determining our own environmental standards and opened up the possibility of toxic sulfate mining right next to the BWCA (the Boundary Waters Canoe Area) an area of hundreds of miles of unpolluted lakes and pristine wilderness. He doesn’t care about antisemitism and he certainly doesn’t care about the people he’s supposed represent. You’re a socialist, an antisemite are just the newest GOP trops to instill fear and hatred and nothing more. Sorry pal, critizing the “government ” policies of Israel does NOT make you an antisemite and you know it Emmer. How about doing your damn job without being just another raised hand when comes to voting for every bad policy that comes across your desk. Grow a spine.

      • Submitted by Greg Claflin on 08/03/2019 - 08:44 am.

        We got rid of his other GOP raised hand and talking head buddy Jason Lewis, time to vote Emmer out too. He is a prime example of what you get from gerrymandered districts.

  7. Submitted by Jon Ruff on 08/02/2019 - 11:18 am.

    Except that I used to think he was better than Michele Bachman, I didn’t have much of an opinion of Emmer. Now I think that he’s irreparably stained the way every single person who has worked for or with Trump has been- not credible, less a civilized human being. With his bald-faced lies, and his horrid distortions he’s become mired in the same stew as Trump.
    Apocalypse Now: “Oh The Horror”.
    Let me add ” Oh The Shame”.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 08/02/2019 - 01:30 pm.

      And given that they’ve now elected Bachmann and Emmer, I’m no longer will to give that district a free pass. I’d tell you my opinion of the average voter up there, but I’m too angry right now and MinnPost wouldn’t post my views.

  8. Submitted by John Evans on 08/02/2019 - 11:41 am.

    Good reporting!

  9. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/02/2019 - 12:30 pm.

    Gee, this is surprising. Emmer told us earlier that he and the GOP’s “Main Street Agenda” would be a Kumbaya moment for all of us and he seemingly would not need to go negative.

    I guess the “Main Street Agenda” and Trump economics are incompatible and it’s easier to just go all negative all the time.

    He is the MN right’s answer to Ilian Omar: qualifications matter little, geography on where you live is everything.

  10. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/02/2019 - 01:22 pm.

    Republicans have owned racism and budget deficits since the time of Reagan. They have been all about winning at any cost, willing to spew any exaggeration or falsehood since Gingrich was speaker. They have blocked any bill possible if it came from the other side of the aisle for the last ten years. They are about tax cuts for the wealthy and denying aid to the poor.

    But in the last two years it has all come together under Trump, every nasty, hateful tendency in the Republican crowd. And now they top it off by playing proxy to the Kremlin. The wave the flag as a cover for what many would consider treason.

    Emmer and his ilk care more about throttling our government with their agenda. They are willing to subvert democracy with their phony voting bills and gerrymandering. America as a democracy and a republic will not survive if Trump wins in 2020.

  11. Submitted by Elisa Wright on 08/02/2019 - 01:57 pm.

    It appears that Emmer & other republican’s criticism of Democrats as antisemitic for not condemning Omar for her tweet about AIPAC is an effort to get people to avoid thinking critically. If you don’t know what AIPAC is, it is now equated with all people of the Jewish faith, and by criticizing it or failing to ask for the resignation of the person who did criticize it in a tweet is antisemitic. Don’t bother finding out what AIPAC is or does & never criticize them because then you will also be called antisemitic. We can apply the same logic to football and apple pie.

  12. Submitted by Bruce Pomerantz on 08/02/2019 - 03:03 pm.

    What White House or cabinet position is Emmer auditioning for should Trump be re-elected? Here’s hoping that the 6th District boots him out with Trump so that he loses twice.

    • Submitted by Tory Koburn on 08/02/2019 - 08:51 pm.

      It’s easily the most Republican district in Minnesota, so that isn’t likely any time soon. It’s why Emmer ran there after his massive loss in the 2010 governor’s race.

      Though, with the population growth in Woodbury and Cottage Grove, this district’s Republican lock might not last forever.

  13. Submitted by John Evans on 08/02/2019 - 04:11 pm.

    So Mad Dog Emmer and the Rabid Republicans are in attack mode, going full throttle with the incendiary drive-by smears. The press stenographers will slavishly report every word, and seek comment from those thus insulted and smeared.

    This is not news. Insults are not events. Yes, civility is an issue, but a lot more is happening in the mean time that isn’t getting properly reported.

    As a retired person, one pressing issue for me is that Mad Dog Emmer and every single other Rabid Republican is trying to cut my Social Security and Medicare.

    How about reporting on that, for a change!

  14. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 08/02/2019 - 05:47 pm.

    This is really despicable behavior on the part of the GOP and Emmer. But unfortunately, not surprising in the least.

    One wonders how long Emmer will get away with acting like a Nice Guy here at home while being a disrespectful attack dog in DC. Unlike some scared-y cat Republican Congressmen (they hardly have any GOP Congresswomen), Emmer actually holds ton halls that are open to the public. At least he has in the past. The citizens of CD6 would do well to bluntly ask Emmer about these despicable attacks.

  15. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 08/02/2019 - 07:05 pm.

    Ruthless. Let’s see. Who is ruthless? Pretty much any autocrat and tyrant the world has ever seen. This is like Trump claiming to be the least racist person in the world while calling black people racist. Looney tunes! There is not one scintilla of Christian theology that supports what you are preaching.

    • Submitted by Rod Kuehn on 08/03/2019 - 09:41 am.

      The single greatest predictor of Trump support is Christian nationalism.

      Christianity comes in all flavors, however distasteful some of them may be.

  16. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/02/2019 - 09:26 pm.

    Trump won by an electoral fluke; the Democrats rebounded in 2018.
    Republicans know that they’re a congenitally minority party when elections are fair, so they’ll do anything to get their greasy thumbs on the scales.

  17. Submitted by Roy Everson on 08/03/2019 - 02:32 am.

    Even in Red districts there’s always a chance for the right DFLer to come along — someone well known and respected, perhaps someone who has already run and lost not because of obvious flaws but because his or her neighbors usually vote GOP. Just saying, if enough swing voters got fed up with Emmer’s foul tactics as a swamp-based national leader, an upset could be in the making.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/03/2019 - 10:50 am.

    Excellent article, if a little overdue on Minnpost. It’s nice to see someone take it to Emmer directly.

    Everywhere you turn you see Republican playing a politics of division, they’re even causing a rupture among Evangelical Christians, which is quite an accomplishment. The saving grace of divisive politics is that the more cleave off of so many people you’re left with a small base. As republicans appeal to an ever decreasing base of toxic voters it will be easier for others to pick up votes… in theory.

  19. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/03/2019 - 11:32 am.

    A lot of these guys don’t know how Judaism works.

  20. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 08/03/2019 - 04:28 pm.

    The Republicans might actually understand that having an openly racist president and elected representatives who aren’t troubled enough by it to condemn it, might not be a sound strategy for electoral victory.

    They might even be alert to the bad “optics” of white supremacist and right-wing violence whose perpetrators reference the rhetoric of Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, etc.

    The GOP may have noticed that you can watch video of a Nazi rally and see similar phrases pop up on Fox News (concerning immigrants “replacing” white people), and maybe that looks bad.

    The popular conservative website breitbart contains an eye-popping amount of hateful and violence-promoting rhetoric, including calls for genocide against Muslims.

    The late breaking El Paso shooting news reveals that the shooter apparently had a manifesto. Sure enough, it contains anti-immigrant hysteria and racism.

    So, what’s the conservative Republican to do? Deflect and shift the narrative at all costs. Pretend that this problem is all on the other side, even if you have to shamelessly lie about it.

  21. Submitted by Carl Brookins on 08/04/2019 - 07:29 am.

    It is deeply disappointing to learn of the rise in antisemitism on the part of Minnesota Republicans. Under Emmer and Carnahan local republicans appear to have drunk the Trump koolaid and descended into the ooze of DC politics. Apparently, recognizing the inhumane stands and poor economics of the Republican Party means using any lies and nastiness to win elections. One can only hope Minnesotans, at least, are smarter.

  22. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/06/2019 - 01:19 pm.

    I guess we can give Emmer a pass on anti-antisemitism if he is willing to accept a “raging hypocrite” label because the Jewish billionaire who has the single most purchased influence in this country is Sheldon Adelson. His Trump donation dollars moved our embassy to Jerusalem and Trump’s “pro Israel” positions are no doubt influenced by his single biggest contributor.

    But; that is all fine and dandy with Tom Emmer, he’s only worried about liberal Jewish billionaires.

  23. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 08/07/2019 - 02:38 pm.

    Well folks, one of the last things we could expect from guys like Emmer is honesty, integrity, rationale discussion, etc. so is there really any surprise here?

  24. Submitted by Barbara Boldenow on 08/08/2019 - 02:23 pm.

    The RNC & Frank Luntz have a conference call each day when all republican (leaders) are given their “trigger words for today. That’s why and how they are always making the same sounds everywhere across the country. This has been going on for over 20 years. It’s been working that long and the democratic party does nothing to counter this tactic. It’s so disheartening. They all have the same donors and simply don’t care, I guess.

  25. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 08/08/2019 - 06:07 pm.

    It’s disappointing to see Tom Emmer act like this when he thinks he’s not being seen. I actually had had a little admiration for him when he stood up to the bigots in St. Cloud. However a letter like this when he thinks no one is looking, it makes him look like a typical Republican in 2020. He’ll win his seat, But he Has lost his integrity and my respect. Your Repubs have nothing But fear and anger. Telling it like it is is the password for I’m a racist and I’m proud of it. And Tom Emmer tells it like it is. As someone who has to work in Saint cloud three days a week, if it’s the district to a T.

  26. Submitted by Mark Gruben on 08/09/2019 - 08:18 am.

    Here in the First District, last September, Jim Hagedorn was leading in the polls over Dan Feehan by 25 points. Trump visited Rochester in October. By November, the polls had the race neck-and-neck, and Hagedorn won by 1,311 votes. Since taking office, Hagedorn has banned certain groups and individuals from visiting his Mankato and Rochester offices, and has even cancelled appointments and refused to meet with some who have requested time with the Congressman. Hardly an auspicious start. His full-throated support for Trump has not resonated well with people in this rather red part of Minnesota.

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