Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin is a man of controversial opinions, but antisemitism isn’t one of them. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) seized on a joke Boykin made to an Israeli reporter at Breitbart News’ “Uninvited II” conference on a hot mic that Jews are the “cause of all the problems in the world,” and that became the jumping-off point for a nationwide attack, including by comedian Seth Myers of Late Night.
Context is everything, of course. Boykin’s remark was no Mel Gibson-style hate rant, but rather an “in-joke” told in a room with no shortage of Jews. (I also spoke there, and it’s fairly certain that Breitbart News would not have tolerated an antisemitic speaker.)
The same news website that covered Boykin’s presentation at the Uninvited conference also noted, in a separate article: “Held just days after this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, the National Security Action Summit might be mistaken for an offshoot of the same, given the profusion of kippot and the presence of some of Israel’s staunchest defenders on the American political scene today.”
Hardly an antisemitic hate-fest.
Imagine if Seth Myers’s jokes were taken to represent his personal feelings about issues–and ethnic groups.
Comedians with a political bent often explain that they’re only joking, after all. That’s a courtesy they rarely extend to others–and in this case, Boykin deserves the benefit of the doubt.