Mckee Explanation of Article Criticizing Jews Attacked by Untermyer
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Mckee Explanation of Article Criticizing Jews Attacked by Untermyer

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Although injection of the race issue in the New York City mayoralty contest was deplored by representatives of all factions, the issue, revolving around the alleged anti-Semitism of Joseph V. McKee, independent Democrat running on the “Recovery Party” ticket, continued to hold the center of attention in the election preliminaries yesterday.

Samuel Untermyer, who had previously strongly denounced Mr. McKee on the basis of an article the candidate wrote in 1915, declared yesterday that Mr. McKee’s explanation, made in a special broadcast Monday evening over Station WABC, was evasive. Mr. McKee had denied any intention of criticizing the Jewish race.

“I did not criticize Jews nor Judaism,” Mr. McKee had declared. “I criticized only those who abandoned Judaism. Do Jews do less?”

He severely attacked Major Fiorella H. LaGuardia, Fusion candidate for mayor, whom he accused of being responsible for the racial issue in the election.

Major LaGuardia, in a statement yesterday, replied:

“Mr. McKee’s charges that someone else has injected the religious

issue in the campaign are like the pickpocket who shouts ‘Thief!’ to avoid detection. Mr. McKee wrote the scurrillous, cowardly attack on a great race, and the responsibility is his. He wrote it when he was a teacher on the city payroll, and the only time he calls it politics is when he runs for office as his own weak confession admits.”

Mr. Untermyer’s statement follows:

“If Mr. McKee had said frankly that this deliberate, unprovoked libel upon the moral character and integrity of the entire younger generation of Jews—which is precisely what it was—had taken place eighteen years ago, when he was still a young man, and that he had since changed his views and regretted the incident, we Jews, who are a patient, forgiving, long-suffering people, accustomed to being misunderstood, persecuted and maligned, would be disposed to overlook it.


“That was probably the attitude of my lifelong friend and partner, Louis Marshall, who was naturally anxious, as I would have been, to avoid the responsibility of forcing any such issue into a political campaign.

“I have examined into Mr. McKee’s surprising claim of friendship with Mr. Marshall and find it to be news to all those near to him and who ought to know, as it was to me. The first impulse and the first line of defense of every anti-Semite, when charged with bigotry, is to cry:—’I have many friends among the Jews.’ It has a familiar ring.

“If, when Mr. McKee sat down and deliberately wrote for wide circulation in a religious journal, that:—

“‘In oral discussions on such topics as ‘Is lying justifiable?’ or ‘Is it wrong to cheat?,’ their words (referring to the Jewish school children) consistently show that they recognize no code of morals, and are governed by no motives higher than those originating from fear of detection and consequent loss in money. Surely we cannot look for ideal results from such material.’

“What did he mean if he did not intend to indict and hold up to contempt the entire younger generation of Jews as liars, cheats and worse, without morals or character, and with money as their sole ambition?

“What did he mean but to hold them up to derision when he added: ‘Surely we cannot look for ideal results from such material.’

“Oh, no, Mr. McKee. You will have to do better than that. I, for one, am willing to believe that with more mature years and closer contact with our people you developed a better understanding of them; but I beg of you not to continue to insult our intelligence. My advice is to let bad enough alone. Three weeks is a long time, nowadays. We may forget, but we are not fools.”


Mr. McKee, in his radio speech declared he had not intended any attack on the Jews in his article and said that his long record of friendship and cooperation with Jewish citizens and his support of Jewish activities were proof that he was not anti-Semitic.

“I abhor bigotry,” Mr. McKee said. “I have the utmost contempt for those who either preach or practice race hatred. Directly or indirectly, I regard racial and religious intolerance as a menace in whatever shape or form it rears its ugly head. It must be combated with the utmost vigor by every right-thinking man and woman.”

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