Editorial: Cowardly Ignorance

Hamodia - February 16, 2012

Three weeks ago, New York State Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein was driving a car while listening to a media program. The host of that program, a Mr. Chris Matthews, was discussing the views of Sheldon Adelson, a Republican political contributor who has donated large sums of money to support the presidential aspirations of Newt Gingrich. Somehow, the discussion veered onto the attempts to have the sentence of Jonathan Pollard commuted to life served. Ms. Weinstein, a Democrat who represents the 41st District in Brooklyn, was shocked to hear Mr. Matthews describe the efforts for Pollard as a "hawkish" position "which most people would see as divisive in the world and would cause nothing but trouble."

Deeply distressed at the blatantly untrue remark, after obtaining a transcript of the program and verifying that there had been no misunderstanding, the assemblywoman wrote a letter - on her official stationery as an elected state official - to Matthews, informing him that she found his comments to be "incendiary and insulting." She pointed out that "a broad cross-section of religious and political leaders support commuting Jonathan Pollard's sentence," and recalled her own visit to Mr. Pollard in prison, where she heard firsthand the details of the injustice he has endured.

The assemblywoman urged Matthews to reconsider and apologize.

A copy of the letter was sent to Hamodia as well, and our reporter made numerous attempts to contact Mr. Matthews and his spokesperson via telephone. His staff repeatedly assured us that they "would get back" to us, but they never did, and our emails were ignored as well.

In a telephone interview with Assemblywoman Weinstein, we learned that she never received any response, either. When a media personality willfully ignores inquiries from a reporter - which in our experience is very rare - it's an act of cowardice. Failure to even acknowledge an official communication from a member of the legislature is an act of disrespect to the people of New York State.

In his on-air statement, Mr. Matthews revealed his extreme ignorance on a well-documented issue. The large number of former and current government officials who have stated that it is high time for Pollard to be let go spans the length of the political divide, and to describe it as a "hawkish position" is downright ludicrous. Had Mr. Matthews taken only a few minutes to look into the matter, he would have discovered a long list of extremely liberal politicians and civic leaders who have signed a letter to president Obama on behalf of Pollard, including noted civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, and Benjamin Hooks, who served as executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The comments by Matthews and his subsequent refusal to even acknowledge constructive criticism, reaffirms the fact that many "expert" commentators are woefully lacking in the most basic understanding of the topics they are discussing, and often feed their nave listeners silos of misinformation.

The effort on behalf of Pollard is not a partisan issue, nor is it about conservatism or liberalism. It is a matter of justice and basic fairness. The average sentence for the crime Pollard committed - passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States - is two to four years. Jonathan, who is in poor health, has already served more than twenty-six years in prison.

Assemblywoman Weinstein is to be commended for her efforts.

As we keep davening for Yehonoson ben Malka, we must also be on the lookout for subjective media personalities who seek to complicate the efforts trying to bring this injustice to an end.

  • See Also: Doc:Assemblywoman Weinstein's Letter to Chris Matthews demanding apology (PDF)