What do you think would happen if President Donald Trump decided to meet with the family of a shooting victim, and it turned out his father was a neo-Nazi? It would be front-page news in the country’s leading newspapers and be discussed pretty much continuously on CNN and MSNBC. Whatever the other circumstances surrounding the incident, such a meeting would be rightly seen as showing Trump’s indifference to hate.
What do you think would happen if his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, did something just like that? The mainstream media would ignore it. Those who brought up the issue or even asked questions about it would be branded as “right-wing” provocateurs or denounced as trying to divide the country on race.
That was what happened when Biden met last week with the family of Jacob Blake, an African-American man who was left paralyzed when he was shot by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis., after resisting arrest.
Since the death of George Floyd, all incidents involving police shooting African-Americans have become the focus of intense scrutiny as the nation debates the questions of racism and alleged police brutality. Outrage about these shootings has propelled the Black Lives Matter movement to the center of public attention, as well as leading to protests, riots and violence.
In the days since the shooting of their son, both of Blake’s parents had made many public appearances. His father, Jacob Blake Sr., spoke at the March on Washington on Aug. 28 at which Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 event was commemorated. In his remarks, he pronounced America “guilty” of racism and other crimes in a speech that was widely broadcast and published in leading newspapers. Indeed, as The Washington Post put it, the Blake family represented the feelings of all African-Americans.
But a few days later, when the elder Blake’s views became known to the public, the same news media that was transfixed by his angry speech in Washington lost interest in him.
As it turns out, Jacob Blake Sr. has been angry about a lot of things long before his son’s scuffle with the police led to tragedy. His Facebook page had been filled with hate for years. Most of Blake’s posts were violently anti-Semitic in which he reproduced traditional memes about “pink toe Jewish people” controlling the economy and the media. It was no surprise that a person who spewed anti-Semitism would say he was “with Farrakhan 100%.” As a Nation of Islam sympathizer, it’s also unsurprising that he posted a picture of Jesus in a toilet bowl to show his antipathy for Christianity.
Blake’s hatred doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel sympathy for a family that is dealing with a tragedy. But all of this became public knowledge before Biden was scheduled to meet with the Blake family on a visit to Kenosha. The Democratic nominee chose to meet with him anyway. That Biden’s camp did so was clearly based on its calculation that offending Blake and the Black Lives Matter movement was politically more perilous than offending Jews or people who care about anti-Semitism.
That might have been a controversial decision, but when the mainstream press is acting as your bodyguard, such risks are minimal.
Biden got a pass for the meeting because neither The New York Times nor The Washington Post—or CNN or MSNBC or any mainstream media outlet—mentioned Blake senior’s anti-Semitism and Farrakhan support in their coverage of the meeting. Indeed, as of this writing, none of them have even mentioned it once. Though the Blakes remain in the news, his father being a hatemonger was judged by the editors of these forums to be a non-issue.
Those who did raise the issue were denounced. A JTA story on the meeting was headlined “As Biden meets with Jacob Blake’s family, right-wing media calls attention to father’s anti-Semitic Facebook posts,” as if the problem was with the publications that published the news rather than with the anti-Semitism. One writer for Forbes denounced the whole discussion as a dastardly conservative attempt to divide blacks and Jews. From that point of view, those who talk about black anti-Semitism are the troublemakers, not the anti-Semites.
For the last four years, Trump’s opponents have labored to portray him as an enabler of anti-Semites. They have harped on what they considered to be dog whistles to anti-Semites, including his infamous “very fine people” quote that has been consistently misrepresented in the media as referring to neo-Nazis when it was nothing of the kind.
His opponents dismiss Trump’s historic pro-Israel record and close personal connections with Jews, including a daughter who converted to Judaism and Jewish grandchildren, as irrelevant to the question. Many Jewish liberals have regarded anyone whose personality and politics they dislike as much as Trump as morally equivalent to Hitler. Despite all evidence to the contrary, it is still an article of faith on the Jewish left that a vote for Trump is a vote for anti-Semitism.
Yet Biden’s meeting with an anti-Semite generated crickets from the same people. Outlets that have been screaming about Trump’s alleged enabling of anti-Semitism were mum.
Biden’s decision to meet with Blake doesn’t mean he’s an anti-Semite. Nor does it obligate anyone to support Trump. But it does mean that the Democrat—assuming his aides told him about Blake senior’s dubious record—or his handlers believe that paying homage to the BLM movement is more important than drawing lines in the sand about anti-Semitism.
This is about more than just media bias. The pass given to Blake senior—and to Biden for meeting him—demonstrates anew that anti-Semitism is one sin in which the cancel culture that dominates American public discourse in the summer of Black Lives Matter has no interest.
Just like the apology given Muslim-Americans by the Biden campaign for its statement denouncing Linda Sarsour for her anti-Semitism, the Blake meeting is a milestone that those who care about the spread of hatred cannot afford to ignore. When our political leaders don’t treat hatemongers as being beyond the pale—as was the case with Biden and Blake—they can’t pretend that they take the issue of anti-Semitism seriously.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.