Politico to Eric Cantor: Have you detected any anti-semitism in the House GOP caucus?

Think Progress pushed this out this morning but it’s making the rounds at NRO and Commentary and several nonpartisan Jewish news sources. The springboard for the question is the fact that Cantor supported Adam Kinzinger over Don Manzullo in the recent GOP primary in Illinois, allegedly in part because Manzullo once said Cantor wouldn’t be “saved” because he’s Jewish. Watch the clip and pay special attention to the very end. Cantor initially says no, there’s no anti-semitism, and then speaks vaguely about the “darker side” of politics in America generally. But then Mike Allen tries to pin him down by specifying that he’s talking about the House Republican caucus. Here’s how Patrick Brennan at NRO saw it:

Allen asked Cantor, “have you detected any anti-Semitism among members of Congress?” Cantor said “No,” and then stated that he “didn’t want to talk about those comments,” (presumably the Manzullo statement), calling it “the darker side” of politics. Allen continued to prod him, saying “so you’re saying there is a darker side,” and Cantor explained that he did believe there were problems of religious and racial intolerance in the U.S. When Allen came back at his general comments by saying, “we’re talking about the House Republican Caucus, not America,” Cantor didn’t respond.

Of course, Cantor’s negative response was entirely clear, and his office, when reached for comment, pointed to the fact that his answer was clearly, “no,” there is not evidence of anti-Semitism in Congress.

But that’s not what ThinkProgress got from the video, headlining their post with the spectacularly dishonest assertion, “Cantor Suggests Anti-Semitism Is A Problem Within The House GOP Caucus.”

He does say no when Allen first asks him about anti-semitism but his hesitation at the end is cryptic, enough so that the Jewish Telegraphic Agency described it as a “pregnant silence” worthy of elaboration. Brennan thinks Cantor’s shrug and nonresponse are just his way of saying he’s tired of Allen pressing him on the topic and is ready to move on. That’s totally possible, but I confess that when I first watched the clip, I took his reaction more as a polite way of saying “we’re not completely immune from some of that ‘darker side’ stuff either.” His initial “no” in response to Allen was, I thought, his way of saying that anti-semitism isn’t any kind of institutional problem inside Congress, with the rest of his answer amounting to “but in life there are always a few bad apples everywhere.” But I don’t know, Brennan could well be right. I’m curious to see what you guys think since different people are seeing the clip differently. Note too the murmuring and laughter from the audience at the end. I took that to be a sign that they saw his response the same way I did, but maybe not. As I say, you make the call.

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