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L.A. Times & S.F. Chronicle Endorse Congressman Who Spoke of "So-Called Holocaust":

When the L.A. Times endorsed former Congressman Pete McCloskey for Congress, and said he was "the best thing that could happen for the district, the state, the nation and possibly the Republican Party," wouldn't it have been good to note — to explain why he deserves election despite this — that he has referred to "the so-called Holocaust" in a speech he gave before a conference put on by the Institute for Historical Review?

McCloskey said at the time [2000], "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust," and referred to the "so-called Holocaust."

According to the San Jose Mercury-News,

McCloskey said Friday that he has never questioned the existence of the Holocaust, and the 2000 quote referred to a debate over the number of people killed.

Okay, then. Note that McCloskey's speech to the IHR was covered by the L.A. Times at the time.

I realize this is a bit of an old story (the editorial was on Jan. 25), but I just heard of it, and thought it worth noting, especially given that McCloskey's primary campaign is still going on.

UPDATE: A reader points me to this letter from Pete McCloskey to the editors of the Institute for Historical Review's publication:

I want to make a polite suggestion. So many of my friends and relations personally saw the Nazi death camps during the last days of World War II that I myself am convinced that there was a deliberate policy of extermination of Jews, Poles, gypsies, and homosexuals by the Nazi leadership. Numbers of the specific events can be challenged, but it is my personal view that the IHR would be far more effective if it were to concede that a holocaust did occur and focus on the ADL's distortions of truth. Andy Killgore's and Dick Curtiss' publication would be an ideal example to follow.

Paul N. McCloskey, Jr.
Redwood City, Calif.

(Paul N. McCloskey, Jr. seems to be Pete McCloskey's given name.) This is consistent with his statement that "the 2000 quote referred to a debate over the number of people killed," and with one not uncommon line of Holocaust revisionist argument — sure, some Jews were killed, but not on the 6 million scale. It still seems to me worth noting that the supposedly "best thing that could happen for the district, the state, the nation and possibly the Republican Party" is (1) someone who has spoken of the "so-called Holocaust," and (2) at the very least seems to flirt with the Holocaust revisionist position that the mass murder of the Jews was carried out on a considerably smaller scale than historians believe.

FURTHER UPDATE (reflected in a change I made to the title of the post): Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle also endorsed McCloskey, again without noting his comments on the "so-called Holocaust." Thanks to CalPatriot for the pointer.

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More on the Congressional Candidate Endorsed by the L.A. Times and the S.F. Chronicle:

As I mentioned below, Pete McCloskey (according to the L.A. Times, "the best thing that could happen for the district, the state, the nation and possibly the Republican Party") had spoken to a Holocaust revisionist group, and had called the Holocaust "the so-called Holocaust." That struck me as troubling, and it seemed to me that the papers should have acknowledged this and tried to explain it.

But a commenter points to yet another item, which strikes me as even more troubling. This is from McCloskey's speech at the Institute for Historical Review conference (emphasis added):

From an Israeli television studio I was interviewed by Tom Brokaw in New York for NBC national television. I'll never forget what happened. He asked what we had found, and about our talks with Assad, Hussein and Arafat. You know, you just get five-minute sound bites. I was asked what I thought of Begin. And I said that he's the same guy who, back in 1947, had hanged British soldiers. He was terrorist. Even most Jews thought of him as a terrorist. Some called him a Jewish Hitler, I believe. And I was asked what I thought of Ariel Sharon [who was then Israel's defense minister]. "Well, he's a butcher," I said. "He's a mean guy." I was asked about Yitzhak Shamir. I said something similar about him. And then Brokaw asked me what I thought about Yasser Arafat. "Well," I said, "I think he's a man of peace." At that point, the Israeli military censor cut off the interview and the link to NBC in the United States....

Now if the Israelis did cut off the interview, they could quite properly be faulted for it. And it's certainly quite legitimate to fault Israeli leaders for their past actions. (I can't speak to the details of Begin's, Sharon's, and Shamir's past conduct, but I do know that reasonable people have made such criticisms of Begin and Sharon; for purposes of this post, I'm happy to assume the truth of those criticisms, and to include Shamir in the group.)

But can someone who harshly condemns Begin, Sharon, and Shamir for their past violent acts yet calls Yasser Arafat "a man of peace" really be "the best thing that could happen for the district, the state, the nation and possibly the Republican Party"?

(For those who want to justify McCloskey's statements on the theory that he would have said more to qualify his position about Arafat had the censors not cut him off, please note that he related this story in his own speech, with no qualification and no explanation. When someone gives a speech to a Holocaust revisionist group and favorably recalls an incident in which he harshly criticized Israeli leaders but called Arafat "a man of peace," that seems to me a good window on the man's mindset.)

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One Advantage of the Republican Party, 1982:

Why, it "is not in the hands of the Jewish lobby in America." The Democratic Party, on the other hand, "must look quite often to Jewish money to finance candidates." And Israel, of course, "has become very much like adolf Hitler's Germany." That's Rep. Pete McCloskey, in an interview with Spotlight magazine (published by the Liberty Lobby), Oct. 11, 1982, at 14:

The Republican Party is not in the hands of the Jewish lobby in America as the Democratic Party must look quite often to Jewish money to finance candidates. If you look at "Scoop" Jackson, and Alan Cranston, and Teddy Kennedy -- any Democratic candidate for national office has more or less go to look to Jewish money, Republicans don't -- they are more business-oriented....

The battle [over Reagan's peace plan for the Mideast] will be for public opinion in the United States, whether the Congress will be willing to back Reagan and stand up to the Jewish lobby in this country. Congress has invariably knuckled under to the Israeli lobby in the past, and for Reagan's plan to succeed, Congress is going to have to be willing to cut off aid to the Israelis if they continue the West Bank settlements....

That's the same man who has referred to the "so-called Holocaust," in a speech before the Holocaust revisionists at the Institute for Historical Review. That's the same man who called Yasser Arafat a "man of peace" in the same exchange in which he harshly condemned Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, and Yitzhok Shamir.

It's also the same man who's running in the Republican primary for a House of Representatives seat, and who has been endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. The Times tells us he's "the best thing that could happen for the district, the state, the nation and possibly the Republican Party."

There's no doubt that Jews, like others, participate in the political process, and promote causes that they care about -- which sometimes include Israel. It's quite legitimate to discuss that. It's quite legitimate to criticize Israel; for all I know (not being particularly knowledgeable on the subject), Rep. McCloskey's substantive criticisms of Israel were quite sound, though the claim that Israel was "very much like Adolf Hitler's Germany" makes me skeptical of his other views.

But when someone suggests that the Democratic Party is "in the hands of the Jews," because it is beholden to "Jewish money" (the money of 2% of the U.S. population, a group that's somewhat but not vastly more prosperous per capita than the average person), that suggests a pretty serious lack of perspective. And when coupled with the more recent talk of the "so-called Holocaust" and the shocking double standard in evaluating Arafat and the Israeli leaders, it makes one wonder whether Mr. McCloskey is indeed quite as good as the Times and the Chronicle suggest.

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S.F. Chronicle on the Allegations About Congressional Candidate Pete McCloskey:

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's article, discussing tomorrow's primary:

Fiercely opinionated — his critics brand him anti-Semitic for praising the late Yasser Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s — McCloskey can also gleefully poke fun at himself....

The Chronicle had earlier endorsed Rep. McCloskey.

Is the newspaper being quite candid with the readers here, and quite fair to Rep. McCloskey's critics? Of course anyone who brands a candidate anti-Semitic simply for praising Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s is quite wrong, and such charges deserve to be rejected.

But Rep. McCloskey has done considerably more than this. In a speech to a Holocaust revisionist group, he has mentioned the "so-called Holocaust," and told them "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust" (which in retrospect he says was not "question[ing] the existence of the Holocaust," but rather merely "referr[ing] to a debate over the number of people killed," itself a staple of Holocaust revisionist arguments). When he praised Arafat, he did so at the same time as harshly criticizing Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak Shamir; the allegation isn't simply that he praised Arafat, but that he was applying a double standard that favored the Palestinian leader over Israeli leaders. He'd also complained in 1982 that the Democratic Party was "in the hands of the Jewish lobby" because it had to "look quite often to Jewish money." And he called Israel "very much like Adolf Hitler's Germany" — which, in the view of some (such as me) betrays not just a serious lack of good judgment, but also a double standard under which the misconduct of Israel and Israelis is exaggerated, while the misconduct of Israel's enemies (and other nations) is downplayed or ignored.

Now perhaps even all this is not enough to show that Rep. McCloskey is anti-Semitic. But given these criticisms, is it really fair — and really a service to the newspaper's readers — to reduce the criticisms of him to "critics brand him anti-Semitic for praising the late Yasser Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s," and completely ignore the other, more serious, charges?

Thanks to reader Michelle Dulak Thomson for the pointer.

UPDATE: Reader and fellow lawprof Frank Cross passes along this letter from journalist Mark Hertsgaard to the editor of the Nation magazine:

McCloskey did speak at the 2000 IHR convention, but he appears not to have said what Rafael Medoff and others allege, apparently basing their charge on an IHR newsletter report. But when I viewed a videotape of McCloskey's speech, I found no such wording. He told the delegates, "I may not agree with you about everything I've heard today," before he reiterated a core point of his speech--that the right for anyone to question what is said about the past is basic to freedom of thought in America. "I may not agree with you" is very different from "I don't know if you're right or wrong." McCloskey also devoted much of his speech to describing how Jews had long been discriminated against in the United States and abroad.

The IHR's misquotation of McCloskey may well have been the honest mistake of a volunteer note taker who heard what he wanted to hear and didn't go back and check the tape. McCloskey told me he certainly didn't question the existence of the Holocaust or that 6 million Jews were killed....

I don't know quite what to make of this. I've seen no such claims of misquotation by McCloskey himself or the McCloskey campaign. The campaign has on its own Web site a San Jose Mercury-News article that reports:
Campaign charges are exploding over a 2000 speech McCloskey gave to the controversial Institute for Historical Review, some of whose members question the severity of the Holocaust. McCloskey said at the time, "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust," and referred to the "so-called Holocaust."

McCloskey said Friday that he has never questioned the existence of the Holocaust, and the 2000 quote referred to a debate over the number of people killed.

If the Mercury-News is paraphrasing McCloskey right, this means that he's not denying the accuracy of the quote, and that he did question the number of Jews killed. (I noted the San Jose Mercury-News account of McCloskey's characterization of his quote in my initial post.) In a letter to the editor of the Institute for Historical Review's publication, McCloskey also says that "Numbers of the specific events can be challenged," though goes on to suggest "that the IHR would be far more effective if it were to concede that a holocaust did occur and focus on the ADL's distortions of truth."

In any event, none of this, it seems to me, undermines my criticism of the San Francisco Chronicle article: Saying that McCloskey is being called "anti-Semitic" because of his two clearly non-anti-Semitic statements (his praise of Arafat and his support in the early 1970s for a Palestinian state), and ignoring what seem to be much more damning — though partly disputed by Mr. Hertsgaard — evidence, seems to be unfair to McCloskey's critics and a disservice to the newspaper's readers.

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