Religion Irrelevant Amid the Summer of Filner, Spitzer and Weiner

August 21, 2013


Three politicians whose political ambition and sexual misconduct have enraptured Americans this summer – San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and the city comptroller candidate Eliot Spitzer – all happen to be Jewish.

That’s been irrelevant so far, and just about everyone agrees it should stay that way.

“Scandals recognize no race, religion or ethnicity, however they do sometimes provide fodder for the bigot,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the prejudice-policing Anti-Defamation League, told U.S. News. “Although they do not need facts in order to engage in their bigotry, we have not seen the religion of these three play any significant part in the criticism.”

Previous scandals, such as the implosion of a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme operated by Bernard Madoff in 2008, elicited an outpouring of anti-Semitic commentary that “painted all Jews as thieves willing to do anything to satisfy their greed,” the ADL previously documented.

[POLL: Weiner, Spitzer Embarrass New Yorkers]

A July article published in The Jewish Week titled “The Shanda Factor” – using the Yiddish word for shame – considered the current scandals.

Referring to a New York Times article on the travails of the three Democratic politicians – as well as Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., who incorrectly acknowledged he fathered an illegitimate child – the weekly publication reported that “their collective appearance in print unsettled Jewish political players who were whispering their names at social gatherings over the weekend.”

Former White House Communications Director Ann Lewis, on a positive note, told The Jewish Week that hypocrisy is not generally an issue in sex scandals involving Jewish politicians because they “by and large have not been huge advocates of patrolling other people’s sex lives.” Lewis worked in the Clinton administration and is the sister of former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who himself is no stranger to sex scandals.

Spitzer resigned his job as governor of New York in 2008 after admitting he paid top-dollar prostitutes. He wasn’t prosecuted, despite signing into law tougher punishments for prostitution, and jumped into the city comptroller race July 7. Weiner stepped down from Congress in 2011 after tweeting lewd photos of himself to various women. He admitted in July to sending similar explicit messages after leaving Congress, killing his short-term lead in mayoral polls. Filner is clinging on to his mayoral post amid a growing number of women alleging that he sexually harassed them.

[OPINION: Filner, Spitzer and Weiner Are Too Stupid for Politics]

“I am sure they are enduring immense public pain and shame as a consequence of their actions and scandals,” former Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is Jewish, told U.S. News. “Further traumatizing them by indicting the Jewish faith over their shortcomings would only add to their anguish and betray ignorance about the teachings of Judaism.”

Abramoff served more than three years in prison after a high-profile lobbying scandal and has since expressed regret for his actions. His autobiography, “Capitol Punishment,” shines light on D.C.’s money-hungry political culture. There were only “a few examples of unfortunate remarks about my faith during my scandal,” he recalled.

The religion of public figures should be irrelevant in the coverage of scandals, Abramoff said, unless “someone is acting on behalf of one’s religion in an official capacity, or consistent with its doctrine.”

Source: U.S. News & World Report