The reliably liberal Martin Bashir on Tuesday questioned anti-Semitism at the Occupy Wall Street protests, pushing artist/activist Russell Simmons to respond to bigoted signs and messages seen in New York.
Simmons bristled at having to deal with the subject, replying to Bashir's question by dismissing, "Where'd you get that from? Bill O'Reilly or somebody?" Bashir played a commercial by the Emergency Committee for Israel, featuring a protester screaming, "You're a bum, Jew!" Another can be seen announcing, "Jews control Wall Street." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
After Simmons attempted to explain away the video as just a few outliers, Bashir pressed his guest, pointing out that the group "would not have put a video like that together and posted it if there weren't sufficient images."
The anchor added, "And that seemed like multiple cases of people being deeply offensive against" Jews.
It's interesting to note that the Emergency Committee for Israel's board features conservatives such as Bill Kristol, Gary Bauer and former Republican congressional candidate Scott Rigell. These are not typically people that get a lot of play on MSNBC.
Journalists were quick to assign racist motives to the Tea Party, but have largely ignored bigotry by the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
If even someone as liberal as Martin Bashir covered this story, surely other journalists can as well.
A transcript of the October 18 segment, which aired at 3:15pm EDT, follows:
MARTIN BASHIR: Speaking of these particular protesters, there has been some reporting that anti-Semitism has begun to emerge and-
RUSSELL SIMMONS [A little annoyed]: Can you repeat that?
BASHIR: Well, anti-Semitism.
SIMMONS: You repeat that? Where'd you get that from? Bill O'Reilly or somebody?
BASHIR: No. Let me show you. A group called The Emergency Committee for Israel has released this advert. Watch this.
AD NARRATOR: Political leaders are praising Occupy Wall Street.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: The American people are now occupying Wall Street. Do you support them?
NANCY PELOSI: Well, I support the message.
BARACK OBAMA: I think it expresses is the frustration of the American people.
NARRATOR: What is happening at the Occupy Wall Street protest?
MAN #1: Jews control Wall Street! [He's holding a sign that reads, "Hitler's bankers Wall Street."]
MAN #2: You're a bum, Jew!
MAN #3: The small, ethnic, Jewish population of this country, they have a firm grip on America's media, finances. [Sign reading "Google: 1. Wall St. Jews. 2. Jewish Billionaires. 3. Jews & FedRsrv Bank." Another sign: "Gaza supports the occupation of Wall Street."]
BASHIR: Have you seen any of that?
SIMMONS: I go down there every day and I see sweet, compassionate, politically astute people. I participate in their mediation, daily. I see these people who have high aspirations for America who are idealistic and I don't see any kind of race. I see the most inclusive group America has to offer.
BASHIR: So, what of these images?
SIMMONS: Race, religion- there will always going to be images. You see 20,000 people and they say that 40 people got arrested. They report that it was very violent. You know, that was Times Square. I saw it on the cover of a paper. Very violent. I also so on one of the papers, this- the pictures of a few homeless people sleeping. They said it looks like Amsterdam. These are college kids. The nucleus of this and the message, the overall message that's being given, is that we want our government to be controlled by the people and all people.
BASHIR: But, I just have to press you on this, though, because this emergency committee would not have put a video like that together and posted it if there weren't sufficient images. And that seemed like multiple cases of people being deeply offensive against-
SIMMONS: You know- Do you know how many people are protesting around the world? Occupy Wall Street?
BASHIR: I'm talking about what was happening in Manhattan.
SIMMONS: But, do you know how many people have come through and how many messages are coming through?
BASHIR: We understand there are 82 countries where these protests have arisen.
SIMMONS: Right, it's very easy. It is true. It is true. There is a political potential to enhance the work that Democrats are doing. It's true. And they are not hijacking it, but may be the beneficiary of some of the efforts. And there are many people who do not like that idea. There will be infiltrators and promotions of negative things that have happened. I am part of that 100 percent down there. I believe if the people suffer, then I'm suffering. Their message is Wall Street because Wall Street controls the future and they would like to control the future. It's that simple. To say they anti-Semites or their anti-anybody- It's really easy to find images and use them. But, we all know, whoever has visited Occupy Wall Street, all know that it's a very sweet, astute, politically astute, smart, compassionate and loving group.
BASHIR: And there's no focus on Jewish bankers? Jewish financiers? There's nothing of that kind?
SIMMONS: I have not seen any of it, but if there is some, there a lot of things down there. But, mostly, it's a will for America to be better and their efforts to make a more perfect union are heard around the world and being respected. And, so, if some people don't like the fact that they are attacking Wall Street and they want to frame it poorly, they can. You, as a responsible journalist, have to go down for yourself and you have to make an assessment.
BASHIR: I have been down there and I didn't see any of those signs.
SIMMONS: Right. Well, I appreciate that.
BASHIR: Russell Simmons, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us today.