The Minnesota congressman and former radio talk-show host Jason Lewis recently announced that he is running for Senate in the 2020 election. On air in 2013, Lewis, echoing the concerns of a caller, complained of the supposed number of dual citizens of Israel and the U.S. in Congress and other branches of government, and their malign effect on policy; he also remarked that Jewish or pro-Israel lobbyists “control the Republican party.” Jonathan Marks responds to Lewis’s claim that he was merely “playing devil’s advocate,” and comments on the silence of his fellow Republicans:
Lewis . . . wasn’t playing devil’s advocate. He made every one of the claims in question in his own name.
His next line of defense is that, as a member of Congress, he had a pro-Israel voting record. What are we to make of this? Was Lewis, as a radio host, merely spreading to his listeners a vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that he never believed? Or was he, as a freshman congressman, trimming his sails and voting with the party? Neither conclusion saves Lewis. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was therefore entirely in the right when he said . . . that “Republican leaders need to condemn Lewis’s remarks.”
But the only such leader I’m aware of is Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who is not an elected official and whose response was equivocal. Yes, Lewis’s remarks were “indefensible,” he said, but they were made when he as a “shock jock”—which Lewis wasn’t, exactly—and besides, Lewis had an “outstanding record of support for Israel” in Congress.
We rightly blamed Democrats for failing unequivocally and clearly to denounce Ilhan Omar’s remarks about dual loyalty. But the Republican response to Lewis, who hasn’t even pretended to apologize for his remarks, and whom the party will very likely be putting up as its candidate for senator from Minnesota, has been still more tepid.