Video: GOP members apologize for offending Jews

  1. Transcript of: GOP members apologize for offending Jews

    MATTHEWS: We`re back. Time for the politics fix with Chris Cillizza of the WashingtonPost.com , and Charles Blow , the visual op-ed columnist for the " New York Times ." I`m getting feedback. Now I`m not. Two South Carolina Republican county chairs, Edwin Merwin and James Ulmer , defended Senator Jim Demint by writing this in a local newspaper , quote -- this was over the weekend -- "there`s a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies, and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina , and instead using actual bills, Demint is watching our nation`s pennies and trying to preserve our country`s wealth."

    Well, Charles of the " New York Times ," first of all, get ready for the Phillies up there in Yankee country, because you might be in for a real World Series if this comes to play. I know the Big Apple , Gotham and all those other titles of renown you guys enjoy. Get used to them, because they may be gone soon.

    CHARLES BLOW, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Come on, that`s a low blow .

    CHRIS CILLIZZA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He`s opening with the threats.

    MATTHEWS: Your thoughts? I mean, Philadelphia `s had a score to settle with your town for about 200 years, since you replaced us as the biggest city in the United States .

    BLOW: It still hasn`t happened.

    MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think Philly fans are so joyous? Let me ask you -- I was just with them last night. Thank god for Jimmy Rollins . Let me ask you this question: is this just old school? Let`s be frank. I don`t want to jump on these country boys . They made a reference to an old sort of canard. Jack Benny used to tell jokes like this. It`s not anybody defends it. But apparently a really smart fellow -- you know Matt Brooks . He`s head of the Jewish Republican Coalition nationally. He jumped right on it. So I think the Republicans are smart to jump on this from inside the party. Your thoughts?

    BLOW: I think that`s right. The problem is very much a national problem. We keep having these unfortunate word choices by people on local levels who are part of the Republican party . As another South Carolinian , Lindsey Graham , said last week, you want to make the Republican party more than a party of angry white men. At this point, they have had these same sorts of slip ups with the president, alienating African-American voters, the same sorts of slip ups, unfortunate language, in criticizing the Supreme Court Justice , at that point nominee Sotomayor , alienating the Hispanics . You can`t also afford to alienate the Jewish vote. At a certain point, you`ve run out of people to offend.

    MATTHEWS: Especially the number on that vote. I do watch all these votes, as you do, Chris . The number among Jewish Democrats , Jewish supporters is down to zero. I think Sarah Palin killed them, I understand, with that community.

    CHRIS CILLIZZA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I`ll say two quick things. One is this is your classic with friends like these, who needs enemies? These guys are trying to jump to Jim Demint `s defense.

    MATTHEWS: The newspaper editor ran the story.

    CILLIZZA: Exactly. It ran as an editorial, which says something. Number two, this one you should distinguish a little bit. Joe Wilson put it on himself. He yelled "you lie" at a big national speech with the president. Mark Sanford certainly put it on himself with his affair. Jim Demint , these are people doing this -- as to the best of my knowledge -- without his knowledge. He had to come in and condemn them later.

    In some ways, I would distinguish Joe Wilson and Mark Sanford from Jim Demint , because I think they`re not all of the same thing.

updated 10/20/2009 9:57:08 PM ET 2009-10-21T01:57:08

Two Republican county officials in South Carolina have apologized after they disparaged Jews in a newspaper opinion piece in support of a fiscally conservative U.S. senator.

The chairmen, Edwin Merwin Jr. and Jim Ulmer, wrote the newspaper in backing Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's opposition to congressional earmarks — allocations that lawmakers insert into legislation to benefit pet projects in their home districts.

"There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves," according to the piece published Sunday in The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg.

DeMint called the comment thoughtless and hurtful Tuesday, and one of South Carolina's two Jewish legislators, Democratic state Sen. Joel Lourie, said he was outraged.

"The words of these key Republican leaders are disgusting, unconscionable and represent prejudice in its purest form," said Lourie.

He initially called for the chairmen to be removed but later said it was time to move past the issue.

Neither chairmen returned telephone messages from The Associated Press, but they released statements through the state Republican Party.

‘My deep felt apology’
Ulmer, the Orangeburg County chairman, said the remark was "truly in admiration for a method of bettering one's lot in life" and he meant nothing derogatory.

Added Merwin, the Bamberg County chair: "I have always abhorred in the past, and shall continue to do so in the future, anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever. I ... beg that any and all who were offended will accept my deep felt apology."

The executive director of the Washington-based Republican Jewish Coalition said the chairmen should educate themselves about the history of the statement.

They "apparently believed that the image of the Jew as penny-pincher was a praise of Jewish frugality," Matthew Brooks said. "In fact, it dates back to the centuries of anti-Jewish persecution in Europe, when Jews were forbidden to own land or conduct any business other than money-lending, which was closed to Christians by Church law. It is an image of a kind and of a time with forcing Jews to wear a badge on their clothing or enclosing them in ghettos, cutting them off from religious, social, and economic freedom."

The Southeast director for the Anti-Defamation League said the apologies were not enough.

"The seeming ease with which these Republican leaders invoked age-old stereotypes of the Jewish people makes it clear that they need to engage actively in meaningful conversation with the Jewish community to understand why their remarks were so insensitive," Bill Nigut said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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