LOS ANGELES, March 18 (JTA) — John Nash, the brilliant mathematician who life is portrayed in the Oscar-nominated movie "A Beautiful Mind," has denied allegations that he hates Jews. Interviewed by Mike Wallace on a "60 Minutes" broadcast aired Sunday, Nash acknowledged that "I did have strange ideas during certain periods of time." During his decades-long struggle with schizophrenia, Nash had paranoid delusions in which he saw himself threatened by Jews and the State of Israel. He also claimed to be an Arab refugee, Job, the left foot of God and the emperor of Antarctica. "Everyone with whom I have talked to who knows John, everyone says no, he didn´t feel that way about Jews at all," Wallace said. Nash´s wife, Alicia, agreed that "I never heard him say anything like that" in the 50 years she has known him. Oscar winners will be announced March 24. As the race enters the home stretch, the allegations of Nash´s anti-Semitism and homosexual liaisons — which he also has denied — have become a cause celebre in Hollywood. The charges of anti-Semitism are seen as particularly damning, as a considerable percentage of voters for the Academy Awards are Jewish. The charges are based on quotes in a biography of Nash that served as a basis for the film. The author of the biography, New York Times reporter and Columbia University journalism teacher Sylvia Nasar, attributed Nash´s statements to his schizophrenia, rather than any anti-Semitic feelings. It is widely suspected that the accusations of anti-Semitism were launched by a studio fielding a movie in competition with "A Beautiful Mind" for best picture honors, or with its director Ron Howard and star Russell Crowe, who are nominated for awards in their categories. On a deeper level, the campaign to discredit Nash is seen as indicative of a breakdown of journalistic standards. "This year´s campaign illustrates the enormous power the Internet and tabloid journalism have amassed over the last five years," the Los Angeles Times noted. Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge was the first to publicly air the allegations against Nash, which were repeated by other Internet commentators. They then were reported in the New York Post and the Times of London, and circulated widely in the mainstream press. Author Nasar has been among those rushing to defend Nash´s and the movie´s integrity. In an op-ed column in the Los Angeles Times, Nasar noted in passing that Nash´s most ardent champions in the past and present have been American Jewish and Israeli mathematicians. One point critics and defenders of Nash can agree on is that the Nobel Prize-winning math genius was arrogant and overbearing as a young man. A long-time Princeton classmate and faculty colleague of Nash, Harold Kuhn, explained on "60 Minutes" that the title of the biography and movie was extracted from a frequent campus comment that "John was obnoxious, but he had a beautiful mind."
Tom Tugend is JTA's Los Angeles correspondent. A veteran journalist, he also writes for the Jerusalem Post, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and the London Jewish Chronicle.