S.F. Chronicle on the Allegations About Congressional Candidate Pete McCloskey:

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's article, discussing tomorrow's primary:

Fiercely opinionated — his critics brand him anti-Semitic for praising the late Yasser Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s — McCloskey can also gleefully poke fun at himself....

The Chronicle had earlier endorsed Rep. McCloskey.

Is the newspaper being quite candid with the readers here, and quite fair to Rep. McCloskey's critics? Of course anyone who brands a candidate anti-Semitic simply for praising Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s is quite wrong, and such charges deserve to be rejected.

But Rep. McCloskey has done considerably more than this. In a speech to a Holocaust revisionist group, he has mentioned the "so-called Holocaust," and told them "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust" (which in retrospect he says was not "question[ing] the existence of the Holocaust," but rather merely "referr[ing] to a debate over the number of people killed," itself a staple of Holocaust revisionist arguments). When he praised Arafat, he did so at the same time as harshly criticizing Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak Shamir; the allegation isn't simply that he praised Arafat, but that he was applying a double standard that favored the Palestinian leader over Israeli leaders. He'd also complained in 1982 that the Democratic Party was "in the hands of the Jewish lobby" because it had to "look quite often to Jewish money." And he called Israel "very much like Adolf Hitler's Germany" — which, in the view of some (such as me) betrays not just a serious lack of good judgment, but also a double standard under which the misconduct of Israel and Israelis is exaggerated, while the misconduct of Israel's enemies (and other nations) is downplayed or ignored.

Now perhaps even all this is not enough to show that Rep. McCloskey is anti-Semitic. But given these criticisms, is it really fair — and really a service to the newspaper's readers — to reduce the criticisms of him to "critics brand him anti-Semitic for praising the late Yasser Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s," and completely ignore the other, more serious, charges?

Thanks to reader Michelle Dulak Thomson for the pointer.

UPDATE: Reader and fellow lawprof Frank Cross passes along this letter from journalist Mark Hertsgaard to the editor of the Nation magazine:

McCloskey did speak at the 2000 IHR convention, but he appears not to have said what Rafael Medoff and others allege, apparently basing their charge on an IHR newsletter report. But when I viewed a videotape of McCloskey's speech, I found no such wording. He told the delegates, "I may not agree with you about everything I've heard today," before he reiterated a core point of his speech--that the right for anyone to question what is said about the past is basic to freedom of thought in America. "I may not agree with you" is very different from "I don't know if you're right or wrong." McCloskey also devoted much of his speech to describing how Jews had long been discriminated against in the United States and abroad.

The IHR's misquotation of McCloskey may well have been the honest mistake of a volunteer note taker who heard what he wanted to hear and didn't go back and check the tape. McCloskey told me he certainly didn't question the existence of the Holocaust or that 6 million Jews were killed....

I don't know quite what to make of this. I've seen no such claims of misquotation by McCloskey himself or the McCloskey campaign. The campaign has on its own Web site a San Jose Mercury-News article that reports:
Campaign charges are exploding over a 2000 speech McCloskey gave to the controversial Institute for Historical Review, some of whose members question the severity of the Holocaust. McCloskey said at the time, "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust," and referred to the "so-called Holocaust."

McCloskey said Friday that he has never questioned the existence of the Holocaust, and the 2000 quote referred to a debate over the number of people killed.

If the Mercury-News is paraphrasing McCloskey right, this means that he's not denying the accuracy of the quote, and that he did question the number of Jews killed. (I noted the San Jose Mercury-News account of McCloskey's characterization of his quote in my initial post.) In a letter to the editor of the Institute for Historical Review's publication, McCloskey also says that "Numbers of the specific events can be challenged," though goes on to suggest "that the IHR would be far more effective if it were to concede that a holocaust did occur and focus on the ADL's distortions of truth."

In any event, none of this, it seems to me, undermines my criticism of the San Francisco Chronicle article: Saying that McCloskey is being called "anti-Semitic" because of his two clearly non-anti-Semitic statements (his praise of Arafat and his support in the early 1970s for a Palestinian state), and ignoring what seem to be much more damning — though partly disputed by Mr. Hertsgaard — evidence, seems to be unfair to McCloskey's critics and a disservice to the newspaper's readers.