Anti-Semitism Seems No Barrier to Ambassadorial Appointments

January 26, 2023 | Melissa Langsam Braunstein
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Earlier this month, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley was sworn in as the new U.S. ambassador to Brazil. Bagley was nominated a year ago, but her appointment was held up over concerns—voiced by senators from both parties—regarding comments she had made about “the influence of the Jewish lobby,” which she equated with “major money.” When questioned about these and similar declarations during senate hearings, her replies amounted to something less than an apology, as Melissa Langsam Braunstein writes:

For a diplomat, Bagley’s answers were poor. She told Senator Ben Cardin, “I regret that you would think that it was a problem” and “I certainly didn’t mean anything by it. It was a poor choice of words.” . . . Bagley leaves listeners believing her real regret is that the [comments] resurfaced.

Still, Biden stood by Bagley, as did all eleven Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . . Bagley has been in and around Democratic politics and foreign policy for decades. However, looking at her biography, it’s not clear what uniquely qualifies Bagley for this particular post. Like some other ambassadors, Bagley has excelled as a political donor.

Biden’s unwavering loyalty to Bagley, along with the Senate’s confirmation, signals that openly anti-Semitic statements no longer disqualify nominees for prominent positions of public trust. Such statements no longer require repudiation. Flimsy explanations are sufficient, as partisanship trumps moral guardrails.

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