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Media Analyses





On Fox News, Traficant Pedals Falsehoods and Conspiracy Theories


Former Congressman James Traficant, fresh out of federal prison after serving a seven-year sentence for bribery and racketeering, is exercising his new-found freedom to pursue his "grudges," with Israel topping the list. To this end, he has found a willing accomplice at Fox News.

Traficant appeared on "Fox on the Record with Greta Van Susteren" Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009, levelling classical anti-Semitic smears – that Israel and Jews control the media, commerce and the government. His rant prompts Van Susteren to mildly wonder, "Are you an anti-Semite?" She does not press the point further. Nor does she contradict his blatant falsehood about U.S. foreign aid to Israel. Here is the part of the interview that focused on Israel:
 

Foreign Aid Falsehood

Traficant states that when he was in Israel testifying to the High Court on behalf of John Demjanjuk, then suspected of being Nazi war criminal "Ivan the Terrible":

I did a live interview satellite with Bryant Gumbel, and I said "When they put this innocent man to death, they're going to lose $15 billion to $20 billion every year they get from the American taxpayers."

And Bryant Gumbel says, "What are you talking about? They only get $3 billion." And I said, "Bryant, that's only the foreign aid bill. Look at all of the other trade compacts, economic assistance, military assistance."

I am saying this to you right now – Israel gets approximately $15 billion a year from the American taxpayers. That $15 billion is $30,000 for every man, woman and child. And people in my district are losing their pension benefits.

According to U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants, Israel received a total of 2.508 billion dollars in military and economic aid. The detailed itemized chart linked here takes into account USAID grants, as well as grants from the Department of Agriculture, the State Department and other economic assistance, such as the Millenium Challenge Corporation and Peace Corps, among others.

Based on the U.S. Census Bureau's estimation, the U.S. population was 304,059,724 on July 1, 2008. This amounts to $8.24 per every American man, woman and child in U.S. aid to Israel — a small sum going to help a steadfast ally in a volatile part of the world. Moreover, much of the military aid is in fact invested back into the American defense industry, generating both jobs and income for Americans.

If Traficant has credible evidence indicating that there is additional aid to Israel not listed in the U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants Greenbook he should produce it. If not, Fox News owes viewers a correction given that Van Susteren did not challenge or even cast doubt on his figures.

Israel's ‘Stranglehold' on U.S. Government

Traficant implies that he was persecuted at the behest of Israel for his role in advocating for suspected Nazi criminal John Demjanjuk. He says:

I was a walking symbol of defiance. And now they have this man in Germany. And if someone doesn't look into this, the American people should be ashamed of themselves. When you allow one American to be violated, you threaten the freedoms of every American. And I can't understand this, why no one in Congress is raising their voice. And the reason is very simple, And this maybe you don't want to hear, I don't know. And I certainly don't want to hurt you on your show. You have one of the best [sic]. You're fair.

But I believe that Israel has a powerful stranglehold on the American government. They control both members of the House, the House and the Senate. They have us involved in wars which we have little or no interest . Our children are coming back in body bags. Our nation is bankrupt over these wars. And if you open your mouth, you get targeted. And if they don't beat you at the poll, they'll put you in prison. . . .

The grudge is not necessarily a grudge. It's an objective assessment that no one will have the courage to speak out. They're controlling much of our foreign policy. They're influencing much of our domestic policy.

Wolfowitz as undersecretary of defense manipulated President Bush number two back into Iraq. They've pushed definitely, definitely go get Bush before he left to move into Iran.

We're conducting the expansionist policy of Israel and everybody's afraid to say it. They control much of the media, they control much of the commerce of the country, and they control powerfully both bodies of the Congress. They own the Congress.

Traficant's charge about Jewish Israeli control over the U.S. media, commerce and Congress is, of course, essentially indistinguishable from traditional anti-Semitic slurs. (It is little wonder that members of the white-supremacist Stormfront.org group were gushing over the interview.)
 
As for the claim that "everybody's afraid to say it," Professors John Meirsheimer and Stephen Walt have repeatedly made similar (although more restrained) allegations to those voiced by Traficant, albeit with a thin academic veneer. And, despite their errors, distortions and faulty conclusions, the duo received prominent media coverage, belying Traficant's age-old, hateful libel that "they" control the media. Furthermore, it is notable how easily Traficant slips from speaking of "they," apparently referring to Israel, into mention of Paul Wolfowitz – a Jew, but not an Israeli. What of Protestants Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice? They did not "manipulate" President Bush back into Iraq? Or presumably if they did, it was due to their subservience to the Jew Wolfowitz.

Beyond Traficant's crude implications, the claim that Israel pressured the United States into launching the 2003 Iraq war has been discredited, given the record showing that Israel's primary concern at the time was in fact Iran

In response to Traficant's litany of bigoted pronouncements, Van Susteren poses: "Are you an anti-Semite?" To which Traficant responds by insinuating that Arab violence against America — he is seemingly referring to the September 11 attacks — should be blamed on the supposed Zionist control over America, as opposed to the actual perpetrators who he defends as having "no other way to fight": 

No, I'm not. And that's exactly what they're going to say. And I expect that. ... And we have a one-sided foreign policy in the Mideast, and we've alienated Arabs who have no way of fighting. So, what they've done – and I predicted this on the House floor – is they would export violence to America. And they have. They have no other way to fight. I think President Obama knows this. I think he sees this. I think he wants to do something. I think his hands are tied, and I think he's dancing between the raindrops, trying to figure how I can politically machinate some scenario to mitigate these problems. Greta, I'm saying this. America is in danger if America doesn't take back their government without foreign influence, interference.

Van Susteren seemed to accept this defense, as she ended the interview with congenial chatter about Traficant's hair, and a discussion with his wife about whether she was happy to have him home.
 
Demjanjuk's "Innocence"

Traficant maintains the innocence of Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, on whose behalf he has advocated, and Greta Van Susteren fails to clarify the facts. Thus, Traficant states, for instance, "I brought that guy back from Israel, John Demjanjuk. It was my Freedom of Information Act which proved not only that he was innocent, but who Ivan really was" and "When they put that innocent man to death. . . " The two discuss in more detail the fact that Demjanjuk was released by Israel and Traficant notes: "Now he's in Germany fighting for his life." But Van Susteren fails to explain why the "bombarded" old man – Traficant's word – is now in Germany. Here are the facts that the Fox News host inexcusably omitted:

John Demjanjuk of Seven Hills, Ohio, born Ivan Demjanjuk, was deported to Israel 23 years ago, accused of being Nazi war criminal "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka. He was convicted and sentence to death in Israel until new evidence overturned the ruling and led to his release back to the United States. Later, American investigators found that while he was indeed not "Ivan the Terrible," he played a role in the killing of 29,000 Jews in the Sobibor death camp. In May 2009, Demjanjuk was deported to Munich, where he was charged with 27,900 counts of accessory to murder.

Traficant, who last week launched vile libels against Israel and Jews, defends not an "innocent" man, but a man who stands accused of the mass murder of thousands of Jews decades ago. Fox's failure to grasp the relevance of the current charges against Demjanjuk in the context of Traficant's hate speech concerning Jews and Israel is an indictment of the network's competence.


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