NEW YORK (Jun. 27)
White House Chief of Staff John Sununu went out of his way Thursday to assure American Jewish leaders that he does not blame them for the current controversy over his travel practices and that he wants to continue having a “good and productive working relationship” with them.
Sununu told a group of five Jewish organizational leaders in a telephone conference call that he is “not blaming anybody but myself” for the public fire he has come under in the wake of disclosures about his use of government jets and limousines for personal business.
“Nor am I engaging at all in what would be a very non-constructive effort: to suggest any involvement by anyone and any groups in what has taken place or been reported,” he told the Jewish leaders, according to a statement made available afterward.
Sununu also wrote letters to two of the leaders saying. “I value my relationship with the Jewish community and intent to continue working with all of you in an accessible and forthright manner.”
The assurances came after The Washington Post and other newspapers reported this week that Sununu was blaming Jews, in part, for the controversy over his travel practices, which has sparked calls for his resignation.
The Post quoted sources saving that Sununu believed Jews were after him “because he is Lebanese-American” and because they “don’t like my call for evenhandedness” in U.S. policy in the Middle East.
‘FINAL DESPERATE BLEAT’
sununu called Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, on Wednesday to assure him that he never made such allegations.
But that did not convince columnist William Safire, who wrote in The New York Times on Thursday that Sununu’s “scapegoating to save his neck is giving anti-Semitism a bad name.”
“The final desperate bleat from this exposed royalist who cannot defend his ripoff to the taxpayres is to blame Israel’s supporters, and this Jew in particular, for his troubles,” Safire wrote.
In an attempt to put the matter to rest, Sununu again telephoned Hoenlein on Thursday, along with four other Jewish leaders: Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League; David Harris, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee; George Klein of the National Jewish Coalition, a Republican group; and Mayer Mitchell, president of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
He told them the reports were untrue and that he hoped to continue having a constructive relationship with the Jewish community.
In identical letters sent Thursday to Hoenlein and Foxman, the embattled chief of staff said, “I know you share my concerns with the misrepresentations of the past week, and I appreciate the willingness of your and your colleagues to work together with me to put this issue to rest.”