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When Fake News Hurts: Media Hype Fears of Antisemitism

The latest “fake news” headline in the New York Times Friday reads: “A Jewish Reporter Got to Ask Trump a Question. It Didn’t Go Well.”

Of course, Jews are well-represented in the White House press corps, and ask President Donald Trump questions all the time. What was different at Thursday’s press conference was that the question came from Jake Turx, a visibly Orthodox Jew, who is the White House correspondent for Ami magazine, a publication for and by the Orthodox Jewish community.

The question did not go well because, as Turx later said, the president “clearly misunderstood” it — and it could be just as easily said that Turx, speaking without a microphone, did not phrase his question clearly enough. He asked the president to react to reports of rising antisemitism across the country.

As Turx later explained on Fox News, he believed Trump is unfairly accused of antisemitism by a hostile press — often by non-Jewish reporters who lack cultural competence to judge his actions.

Trump took his question the opposite way — as a reiteration of the same accusations he felt he had dispensed with the day before, when visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended him passionately in a joint news conference. As Trump began to react negatively, Turx tried to interject. Trump replied: “Quiet, quiet, quiet.”

Trump’s critics accused him of antisemitism yet again, dubbing the exchange “Shushgate” in social media. And the New York Times played right along.

It was nothing new for the Times, which has hyped fears of antisemitism — for example, by falsely accusing White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon of being a “white nationalist,” despite any evidence to substantiate the claim. But the Times is not the only culprit, or even the worst one.

Tablet magazine cast Trump as a Hitler-type figure throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, for example, and the Jewish Forward hyped fears among Jews about Trump’s “nativist” supporters.

By far one of the worst recent offenders, however, has been the Times of Israel, an online publication that was once a reliably centrist source of news and commentary, but has plunged into anti-Trump hysteria.

Twice in recent days, it has used the word “Nazi” to describe Trump’s advisers. One article ran under a headline accusing Bannon of wanting to make a “Nazi movie” during his past Hollywood days; the proposed movie was actually an anti-Nazi film aimed at eugenics and biotechnology.

Then, earlier this week, the Times of Israel smeared Trump foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — like Bannon, a Breitbart News alumnus — as a Nazi sympathizer, a totally false charge. Like the earlier Bannon article, the Gorka smear was unsigned.

Antisemitism is a growing problem in the U.S., especially on college campuses. As Breitbart News has reported, anti-Israel activism among students and faculty often bleeds into outright anti-Jewish discrimination, harassment, and even vandalism, as it has at universities in California. Breitbart News also reported in December on the vandalism of a Santa Monica, California synagogue on Chanukah — and how the local community came together to support it in the aftermath.

There is no obvious link to Trump’s election, however. And there is an ongoing pattern of false “hate crimes,” staged in order to tarnish conservatives in general and Trump supporters in particular. Hoaxes, once exposed, rarely receive the attention of the original reports.

The climate of fear is made worse because some of Trump’s critics seem to want to believe false accusations of antisemitism, which justify their hatred of him and maintain a sense of outrage and unity among activists.

But the reality is that Trump is already the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history. And on Friday evening, the president’s Jewish daughter will light Shabbat candles with his Jewish son-in-law and bless his Jewish grandchildren.

We Jews should stop worrying, and do the same.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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