Blame paper as well as GOP officials for Jewish stereotype op-ed

Sunday in the Orangeburg, S.C., Times and Democrat newspaper, two local Republican Party officials wrote an op-ed in which they said, “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.”

The authors, Edwin O. Merwin Jr., and James S. Ulmer Jr., were immediately attacked, and have both apologized unequivocally for blithely using one of the most vile and pervasive Jewish stereotypes.

What’s more shocking to me than the fact that the local GOP chairs didn’t know their little anecdote would be offensive is that the T&D printed it. People and politicians believe and say all sorts of stupid, vile things; but it's a newspaper's specific job to carefully consider what it prints.

I wouldn't let one of the Off-Ramp commentators say something this dumb if they submitted it in a commentary, and I'd keep the slip in mind for any future submissions. (This has never happened, by the way.) In our yearly Off-Ramp broadcast of "A Christmas Carol Redux," we deal with the Jewish stereotypes in Dickens, but entitely in context.

I'm sure the T&D wouldn’t print the latest screed from Orangeburg’s Grand Dragon without giving it a onceover, but this sentence -- in the second graph of the story, for crying out loud -- didn’t raise a huge red flag for any of the editors responsible. So either the editors think it's okay to spread hate in the interests of offering a public soapbox, or they didn't know the comment was patently offensive (which is shocking on an editorial board), or they were looking for PR for their paper, or they wanted to make Merwin and Ulmer look like idiots -- none of which justifies printing that garbage.

The paper offered its own apology today in a piece on the furor:

“T&D Publisher Cathy Hughes said Tuesday she regrets the way the paper published Ulmer and Merwin’s column with its comment perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes. While there is value in publishing the full comments of public officials, they should not be allowed to run unchallenged when they reinforce bigotry, she said.”

But in a separate piece by Dionne Gleaton, posted today, it seems like the paper still doesn’t quite get it.

“Religious and educational officials say what some have characterized as derogatory comments made by two South Carolina Republican chairmen about Jews points to the negative impact of stereotypes regarding any race or ethnic group.”

“What some have characterized?!”

If somebody said, “all (insert racial/ethnic group here) are lazy,” would the paper use such careful language in reporting it? I sure hope not. The stereotype of Jews as miserly is offensive on its face. End of debate. There’s no need for qualification or attribution. Here’s a little Journalism 101: if you don’t want to characterize the comments, don’t characterize them (and betray any possible bias). That sentence could have read, “Religious and educational officials say comments made by two South Carolina Republican chairmen about Jews points to the negative impact of stereotypes regarding any race or ethnic group.”

A little judicious editing would have kept everyone out of trouble.

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