News

Thompson apologizes to Jews for comments

Craig Gilbert
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MCT)

WASHINGTON - GOP presidential candidate Tommy Thompson apologized to a Jewish audience Monday after saying that making money is "sort of part of the Jewish tradition."

At the outset of a speech to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the former Wisconsin governor told an audience of a few hundred people that, "I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money."

Added Thompson: "You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition, and I do not find anything wrong with that. I enjoy that."

The remark caused some murmurs and disbelief in the room, according to some who were present.

Thompson, a Roman Catholic, returned to the podium shortly after the speech was over, after someone from the organization spoke to him.

"I just want to clarify something because I didn't in any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things," said Thompson, according to an article posted by Shmuel Rosner, chief U.S. correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Rosner covered the event.

According to Haaretz, Thompson went on to say, "What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion and the Jewish people. You have been outstanding businesspeople and I compliment you for that and if anybody took what I said wrong, I apologize. I may have mischaracterized it. You are very successful. I applaud you for that."

Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center, said Rosner's account was accurate.

His group released an official statement about Thompson that simply thanked him for making time in his schedule for the organization, which is hearing Tuesday from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I think there was some unease in the room in trying to figure out what exactly he had said," Pelavin said after Thompson spoke. "He came back and did his best to clarify what exactly he had said. I think that's appropriate."

The Religious Action Center is the Washington public policy arm of the Reform Jewish movement.

One woman from Houston attending the three-day conference, Sandra Bloch, said Thompson's comment had people talking over lunch afterward.

"The issue was sensitivity or lack thereof. He didn't do his homework. He didn't know his audience," Bloch said.

Rabbi Michael Feshbach of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Md., said, "People held their breath" after the remark.

He called the comment a "temporary distraction."

"I'm glad he dealt with it. It needed to be dealt with," Feshbach said.

Thompson spokesman Tony Jewell said afterward that Thompson considers himself a friend of Israel and the Jewish community.

"Governor Thompson recognized he misspoke in his remarks to the Religious Action Center and is very apologetic," Jewell said. "He intended to compliment the Jewish community for their success in the United States, and he regrets he stepped on his words in doing so."

Thompson misspoke a few other times at the conference, according to more than one person present.

Blogging about the speech Monday, Rosner wrote that Thompson referred to "Israeli bonds" as "Jewish bonds." Another member of the audience said Thompson referred to the Jewish Defense League, a controversial militant group, when he appeared to have a more mainstream organization in mind.

On his blog, Rosner critiqued the Thompson speech in the spirit of "Friendly advice to American candidates trying to woo the Jewish vote."

His advice included not "saying again and again that you have Jewish friends," not invoking the JDL in a positive context, and preparing yourself adequately before speaking to Jewish audiences.

"He came to woo," Rosner wrote on his blog, "but left behind a crowd of sophisticated adults giggling like teenagers at his expense."

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.