Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., used what many conservatives and Jewish leaders are saying is an antisemitic attack against those working to expose the media, calling in a just-published column those involved in the effort, such as GOP strategist Arthur Schwartz, “termites.”
Schwartz, the only person Pitts, Jr., names as involved in the effort, is a Jewish conservative and ally of President Donald Trump.
The use of the word “termites” echoes antisemitism from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has recently used the word to attack Jewish people.
“A president who has branded journalists ‘enemies of the people’ and news media ‘an evil propaganda machine’ now has working on his behalf an anti-journalism hit squad,” Pitts, Jr., wrote in the column. “These people are nothing less than termites in the woodwork of freedom.”
“A president who has branded journalists ‘enemies of the people’ and news media ‘an evil propaganda machine’ now has working on his behalf an anti-journalism hit squad. These people are nothing less than termites in the woodwork of freedom.” My latest:https://t.co/XZW086jhYb
— Leonard Pitts, Jr. (@LeonardPittsJr1) August 27, 2019
Mort Klein, the president of America’s oldest pro-Israel group the Zionist Organization of America said in a phone interview on Tuesday evening he believes the comments from Pitts, Jr., are antisemitic. Klein referenced not just Farrakhan’s use of the word “termites” to describe Jewish people, but also when Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) used the same term.
“Since notorious anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan and antisemitic congressmen like Hank Johnson have both referred to Jewish people as ‘termites,’ one can legitimately assume that Leonard Pitts’ reference to a Jewish man as a ‘termite’ is also being used in an antisemitic manner,” Klein told Breitbart News, “I’m concerned that incidents of antisemitism have been increasing and this latest episode of a Miami Herald writer calling a Jew a ‘termite’ when it’s a word that’s been used by many anti-Semites against Jews leads me to believe this was done intentionally to attack Jewish people.”
Describing Jewish people like Schwartz as “termites” follows the antisemitic Farrakhan’s use of the description, as several conservative leaders have noted:
Hold yourself to the same standards you hold others! @tomwp, a senior editor @nytimes, is a VICTIM being outed calling himself anti-Semitic, attacking Jews & others? He should be fired! Instead the Jewish man who released the info gets attacked as a TERMITE @MiamiHerald. Shanda! https://t.co/iqB9b6gmPA
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) August 27, 2019
This piece refers to a Jewish man as a "termite"
When did Louis Farrakhan become an editor at your newspaper? https://t.co/dsCfv3MtTK
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) August 27, 2019
— Michael Malice (@michaelmalice) August 27, 2019
Is Louis Farrakhan now the editor in chief at your paper?
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) August 27, 2019
“These people are nothing less than termites in the woodwork of freedom.”
— Richard Walters (@rww_gop) August 27, 2019
So these “journalists” explain away their colleagues’ anti-Semitism by using Farrakhan’s playbook — dehumanizing a Jewish man by calling him a “termite.” Solid plan guys, solid plan. @MindyMarques https://t.co/7WQrDHPOmU
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 27, 2019
What Pitts, Jr., wrote here, in calling Schwartz a “termite,” echoes what Farrakhan has written about Jewish people.
“I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite,” Farrakhan once tweeted regarding Jewish people. The tweet was widely condemned as antisemitic, and even Chelsea Clinton ripped Farrakhan for it:
Comparing Jews to termites is anti-Semitic, wrong and dangerous. The responsive laughter makes my skin crawl. For everyone who rightly condemned President Trump’s rhetoric when he spoke about immigrants “infesting our country,” this rhetoric should be equally unacceptable to you: https://t.co/EvFp4ULugm
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) October 17, 2018
Miami Herald executive editor, president, and publisher Mindy Marques Gonzalez referred Breitbart News to the Miami Herald‘s editorial page editor Nancy Ancrum for comment. Ancrum, in a statement to Breitbart News, defended the use of the word “termite” from Pitts, Jr., claiming it was not antisemitic because he was referring to a group of people behind an effort to expose journalists.
“Your characterization of Leonard Pitts’ column is completely false and misleading,” Ancrum said in an email. “At no point does Pitts mention Jewish Americans. Clearly, his use of the word ‘termites’ refers only to the people, regardless of their religion, behind the effort to disparage journalists at major news outlets.”
The problem with Ancrum’s explanation, however, is the only person Pitts, Jr., names in his column as being behind the effort is Schwartz, who is Jewish. He names no other people in describing the effort.
Nonetheless, for now, the Miami Herald is standing by Pitts, Jr., as Marques Gonzalez provided a similar explanation to Ancrum’s in a reply to Trump, Jr.’s criticism of the term:
Your characterization of Leonard Pitts' column is completely false and misleading. Clearly, his use of the word "termites" refers only to the people, regardless of their religion, who are behind the effort to disparage journalists at major news outlets. @NancyAncrum
— Mindy Marques (@MindyMarques) August 28, 2019
The broader column from Pitts, Jr., pans allies of President Trump to expose the media, as Breitbart News did last week in exposing antisemitism and racism in New York Times editor Tom Wright-Piersanti’s Twitter feed. The New York Times over the weekend wrote a lengthy piece about the efforts of Trump allies like Schwartz, and its publisher AG Sulzberger issued a statement condemning the effort. While the Times piece admitted that Wright-Piersanti did in fact make racist and antisemitic statements, Sulzberger’s statement made no mention of that.
Pitts, Jr., wrote:
Tom Wright-Piersanti is the latest victim. According to a report in Sunday’s New York Times, Wright-Piersanti, a Times editor, was targeted by ‘a loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House.’ Their aim: Discredit news organizations they consider hostile to Donald Trump. Their strategy: posting damaging or embarrassing information about journalists.
Pitts, Jr., writes in the Miami Herald about the matter that “last week, after the Times ran two pieces unflattering to the Trump White House, this group unveiled on Breitbart some racist and anti-Semitic tweets Wright-Piersanti wrote 10 years ago.”
Pitts, Jr., even goes so far as to excuse the racism and antisemitism from Wright-Piersanti, writing that “there is far more at stake here than one man’s career”–and that is that he believes President Donald Trump is saying “offensive” things, so Wright-Piersanti’s behavior from years ago is now somehow acceptable.
Pitts, Jr., writes:
He has apologized and expressed ‘deep shame’ for ‘lame attempts at edgy humor’ — and also, in essence, for being a millennial. For my generation, the generation that came of age in the internet,” he said, ‘all the youthful mistakes that you made get preserved in digital amber, and no matter how much you change and mature and grow up, it’s always out there, waiting to be discovered.’ The Times said it was looking into what it dubbed ‘a clear violation of our standards.’ One need not condone Wright-Piersanti’s old tweets to note that whatever offensive thing he said, he said 10 years ago when he was in college. The last offensive thing Trump said was less than 10 days ago, and he is in the White House.”
But the comparison in the next paragraph of Schwartz, an American Jewish conservative, to “termites” echoes what Farrakhan has said about Jewish people.