Last month, several Tea Party activists formed a right-wing coalition to oust Rep. Joe Straus (R) as Texas House Speaker. They began circulating emails with anti-Semitic messages against Straus, who is Jewish. The groups ran robo-calls and sent out e-mails demanding a “true Christian leader,” and calling Straus’ opponent, Rep. Ken Paxton (R), “a Christian Conservative who decided not to be pushed around by the Joe Straus thugs.”
Last week, the Texas Observer’s Abby Rapoport reported that she had obtained an email exchange between two members of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) — Rebecca Williamson and John Cook. “We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it,” Cook said in one of the emails. “Since the SREC governs state Republican Party affairs,” Rapoport wrote, “this marked the first time an elected party leader had semi-openly called for a ‘Christian conservative’ Speaker.” Cook then explained his views to Rapoport in a subsequent telephone interview:
“When I got involved in politics, I told people I wanted to put Christian conservatives in leadership positions,” he told me, explaining that he only supports Christian conservative candidates in Republican primary races.
“I want to make sure that a person I’m supporting is going to have my values. It’s not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right. … I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all.”
Cook insisted he is not prejudiced against Jews:
“They’re some of my best friends,” he said of Jews, naming two friends of his. “I’m not bigoted at all; I’m not racist.” [...]
“My favorite person that’s ever been on this earth is a Jew,” he said. “How can they possibly think that if Jesus Christ is a Jew, and he’s my favorite person that’s ever been on this earth?”
“Ah, I see,” the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen observed, “It’s not ‘about Jews,’ it’s just that Cook doesn’t think Jews can do the job well because they’re Jews.” Benen addded, “Someday, folks will have to understand that ‘some of my best friends are [fill in the blank with a minority group]‘ is a cliche repeated by bigots. I would have hoped that was obvious by now.”