A senior political adviser’s slue against two Jewish congressmen has provoked a strong response from Jewish organizations and politicians.
In a comment reminiscent of Jesse Jackson’s 1988 notorious “Hymietown” remark, Ed Rollins, a senior political adviser to presidential hopeful Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), put his foot in his mouth at a California dinner last week.
Speaking at a campaign fun-raising roast for California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a possible San Francisco mayoral candidate, Rollins said Brown’s true desire was to be mayor of Los Angeles.
If elected, Rollins said, Brown “could show those two Hymie boys, Berman and Waxman, who were always trying to make Willie feel inferior for not being Jewish.”
Rollins was referring to California Reps. Howard Berman and Henry Waxman, both Democrats.
Rollins later sounded a conciliatory note, saying in letters to Berman and Waxman that his “lack of sensitivity is totally inexcusable” and that “there is no justification or excuse” for his remarks.
But, he added, the context was humorous and the comments were made with “great irreverence and attempt at humor.”
Jewish groups have reacted strongly to the slurs, particularly to Rollins justification that they were made in jest.
“While you did apologize for your lack sensitivity in the recent incident, you indicated that your statement `was not intended to be offensive.” But we have to ask you: In what context would you find the term `Hymie boys’ inoffensive?” wrote Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a letter to Rollins.
The American Jewish Congress also criticized Rollins, and implicated Dole, who has stood by Rollins, in the process.
“This kind of ethnic insult has no place in American society, in the political process or in your campaign,” Phil Baum, AJC executive director, wrote in a letter to Dole.
Rollins’ remarks came at a particularly critical time in Dole’s bid for the Republican nomination for president.
Dole recently introduced a bill in the Senate to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in what many believed was part of an effort to garner more Jewish support.
The Dole campaign has apologized for Rollins’ comments, saying in a May 19 statement, “Ed Rollins made a totally inexcusable remark.”
“We hope this apology does something to heal the hurt his words have caused,” the campaign said, adding that Rollins would continue in his role as a volunteer adviser.
Jewish politicians were also outraged by the remarks.
“Ed Rollins has once again shown a complete lack of judgment and sensitivity,” said Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Some have even called on Dole to cut off all ties with Rollins.
“Bob Dole should send a clear message that hate speech will not be tolerated in American political life by dismissing Ed Rollins,” said Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).