This story is about a meeting between Democrats which took place back in February. Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Rep. Elaine Luria held a private meeting with Rep. Rashida Tlaib to express their concern about some of the things she (and others) had said which were deemed anti-Semitic. Yesterday, the Intercept published a story in which Tlaib claimed that during the meeting she realized Rep. Gottheimer was a “bully.”

When Gottheimer reached out to meet with Tlaib, she was eager to take it, hoping that a personal connection would help bridge their differences. On the day of the meeting, February 6, Gottheimer arrived with a colleague, freshman Elaine Luria from Virginia — and a white binder. Luria began by saying that she had met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six weeks earlier, and Tlaib tried to break the ice with a joke: “How’s the two-state solution going?”

The joke fell flat. Gottheimer pulled out the binder, opening it to show Tlaib the contents. It was a collection of printed-out articles, with quotes and other lines highlighted. “He goes through them, ‘you said this, you said that,’ confusing me with other colleagues,” Tlaib said…

Tlaib said she tried to reach Gottheimer on a personal level, telling him about her grandmother, who lives in occupied Ramallah. He wasn’t interested. “He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he’s a bully,” said Tlaib. “He had a goal of breaking me down. I left feeling exactly that way.”

Rep. Gottheimer confirmed the meeting occurred but said he undertook it “at the behest of Democratic leadership.” In other words, someone asked him to have a talk with Tlaib about her anti-Semitic comments and he agreed. Back in January, Rep. Tlaib made news when she responded to something Bernie Sanders posted on Twitter. Sanders what talking about a story at the Intercept highlighting the fact that during the government shutdown the Senate was considering an anti-BDS bill, one portion of which would allow states the freedom to choose not to do business with anyone boycotting Israel. Bernie’s complaint was on First Amendment grounds but Rep. Tlaib’s response was something else, suggesting fans of the pro-Israel bill “forgot what country they represent.”

No doubt that tweet was Exhibit A in the white binder and one of the main reasons leadership wanted someone to have a chat with Tlaib. As for Rep. Gottheimer’s tone, Rep Luria told Jewish Insider she doesn’t remember it that way:

“My recollection of the meeting is that we went into it with good intentions to try to build a personal relationship so that we could talk about these issues,” says Luria. “And the meeting was cordial. We did not agree on policy issues. I mean specifically on BDS, [but] I remember the meeting ending well. I don’t have any recollection of [Rep. Gottheimer] bullying or being rude or anything like that.” Luria recalls that Rep. Gottheimer “gave her a hug on the way out and said, ‘thanks for coming and [I] look forward to meeting with you again.’”

Rep Gottheimer himself also disputes Tlaib’s characterization of the meeting, calling it “misleading”:

“Rep. Rashida Tlaib and I do not agree on everything. But we’re both Democrats, and all healthy political parties are host to a range of views. I have a very different recollection of the meeting she discussed in that piece. I recall Rep. Luria and me honestly explaining how hurtful it is to have your loyalty to America questioned and how, historically, that has harmed the well-being of the Jewish people — those whose loyalty was put into question in the first place. Rep. Elaine Luria and I held that meeting together, at the leadership’s request, in a good faith effort to bring unity and understanding in an increasingly upsetting situation. In it, we shared some of what we believed were antisemitic statements made by multiple members of Congress. We had what we believed, at the time, was a mutually productive conversation. I’m disappointed by the misleading way this attempt to bridge differences was characterized.”

The meeting in question happened just a few days before Rep. Ilhan Omar made news for a series of anti-Semitic tweets about AIPAC. Rep. Omar later apologized on Twitter for those remarks, though some of her fans on the left claimed the criticism was racist. And that’s been the basic response ever since. When Omar was criticized for referring to 9/11 dismissively last month, Rep. Tlaib claimed the critics were racist.

What we’re seeing here is far-left pushback against claims that anti-Semitic comments are, well, anti-Semitic. Early on Pelosi and other party leaders tried to tamp this down by speaking with Rep. Omar and having someone speak with Rep. Tlaib but that’s all out the window now. I think the turning point was when President Trump shared that video of Rep. Omar’s comments about 9/11. As Allahpundit pointed out here, the new approach is to attack the critics as racist Republicans who hate women and people of color.

It seems Rep. Tlaib is now expanding that response to include Democrats who criticized her as well. She doesn’t quite call Rep. Gottheimer racist but labeling him a “bully” has the same effect. She’s changing the subject from the content of what she said to the identities of the people criticizing her. How dare this white male bully her! The problem, of course, is that her comments really were anti-Semitic tropes (and also there’s no evidence Rep. Gottheimer bullied her).

AOC also got in on this attack on Rep. Gottheimer, tweeting a link to the Intercept story and calling him a “conservative” who (based on the story) liked to “fundraise $” with Mike Pence.