WASHINGTON (JTA) — Virginia’s governor claimed ignorance of his new appointee’s past involvement in demoting Jews when he worked in the Nixon administration.
On WTOP-FM’s "Ask the Governor" spot, Gov. Bob McDonnell claimed that he was unaware of the unethical past of Fred Malek, his choice as chairman of the Virginia Government and Restructuring Committee.
In 1988, Malek was forced to resign as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee after the Washington Post obtained a memo showing his involvement in demoting Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics while working as personnel director in the Nixon administration. Two years ago Malek paid $100,000 and his company, Thayer Capital, paid $150,000 in civil fines after defrauding the Connecticut Pension Trust Fund.
Enlightened about Malek’s past, McDonnell said in reference to Malek’s demotions of Jews, "I did not know about this background, but it was 40 years ago, he made a mistake, he’s apologized and atoned for it."
Defending Malek over the civil fines, McDonnell said, "People that are in business 20, 30, 40 years, 50 years, often have regulatory violations. … I don’t know all the details, but I will say what’s important to me is that when I go about restructuring government, I want people who are proven leaders, reformers, change agents who know how to get it done. Fred Malek, during his time at Marriott and Northwestern, has a distinguished track record of getting those things done."
Malek has apologized repeatedly for his actions 40 years ago and counts Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, as one of his defenders.
Two Jewish delegates in the Virginian Statehouse, Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) and David Englin (D-Alexandria), called on McDonnell to ask Malek to step down.
"As a Jew, I’m of course troubled by the fact that in the 1970s Mr. Malek purged Jews from government, but beyond that we need to understand that he was found liable for defrauding taxpayers in a scheme in Connecticut just two years ago," Englin told WTOP. "This is what’s wrong with politics today. People see this kind of pay-for-play, you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours money in politics kind of malarkey, and it makes them cynical about the process."