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Pennsylvania Republican Scott Wagner is very much not apologizing for his recent caught-on-tape anti-Semitic outburst about George Soros, in which he bashed Soros as a “Hungarian Jew” who harbors “hatred for America.” If you have a problem with that kind of bigotry, Wagner thinks you can pretty much just go to hell: “Everybody’s getting their knickers around their ankles over this,” said the wealthy state senator, “and there’s no reason for that.”
Wagner’s defense also keeps evolving. Moments after his Soros comments, Wagner pitifully offered that hoariest of dodges: “I have a lot of friends that are Jewish friends.” Then, when questioned by a reporter, he switched to claiming it was all a grand joke, saying, “I’m trying to bring a little humor into it.” Now he’s trying a third tactic. According to the York Dispatch, Wagner says that “if Soros was Catholic, he’d have called him a Hungarian Catholic, and meant no offense by it.”
We’ll flip it over to another Republican—former Missouri Sen. John Danforth—to explain why this is such horseshit. Two years ago, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich was, like Wagner, running for governor. But a month after launching his bid, he committed suicide, following a “whispering campaign” by the chair of the state GOP, John Hancock, who had been telling people Schweich was Jewish. He wasn’t—Schweich had a Jewish grandfather and spoke appreciatively of his Jewish heritage, but he was a practicing Episcopalian. No matter: It was an unmistakable effort to smear Schweich with Republican primary voters, many of whom are evangelical Christians.
Hancock’s defense was identical to Wagner’s. He said that his comments about Schweich were no different than remarking, “I’m Presbyterian and somebody else is Catholic.” In his eulogy for his friend Schweich, Danforth utterly shredded that nonsense without so much as mentioning Hancock’s name:
“Tom called this anti-Semitism, and of course it was. The only reason for going around saying that someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry. Someone said this was no different than saying a person is a Presbyterian. Here’s how to test the credibility of that remark: When was the last time anyone sidled up to you and whispered into your ear that such-and-such a person is a Presbyterian?”
Wagner is in the exact same place as Hancock, and that sure is some lousy company to keep. Incidentally, the rival candidate Hancock hoped to boost by tarnishing Schweich wound up losing the primary anyway. May Wagner enjoy the same fate.