Think Tank Backs Away From Senior Fellow’s Anti-Hagel Smears

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) distanced itself from a senior fellow’s claim on Monday that former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s choice as the next Defense Secretary, is anti-Semitic and doesn’t like Jews.

Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration official who was convicted of charges related to the Iran-Contra scandal, said on NPR on Monday that Hagel “seems to have some kind of problem with Jews.”

A CFR official told Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen that Abrams’ views do not represent the organization. “The Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional position on matters of policy,” CFR’s vice president for global communications and media relations Lisa Shields said. “The views expressed by our more than seventy experts, who reflect a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives, are theirs only.”

NPR listeners wrote in to complain about Abrams’ comments, some of which were read on the network’s All Things Considered program on Tuesday:


HOST AUDIE CORNISH: John Shrauger of Venice, Florida writes: Mr. Abrams did not convince me that Chuck Hagel is anti-Semitic, but he did convince me that anyone who is not unequivocally supportive of Israel’s policies still risks being labeled as anti-Semitic. What seems to be clear about Mr. Hagel is that he has the courage to stand up to some of the most powerful lobbies in Washington: the defense contracting lobby as well as the right-wing pro-Israel lobby.

HOST MELISSA BLOCK: And many of you thought we should have told you more about Elliot Abrams’ background. Derek Goldman of Missoula, Montana was among those who wrote to say we should have told listeners that Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra investigation. He writes: This information should have been highly important to the story, given the excessive strength of Mr. Abrams’ criticism of Senator Hagel.

Listen to the clip here:

A former Israeli diplomat said this week that the right-wing claims that Hagel is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel are “total and utter nonsense.” “I think that those going after his record are after President Obama rather than after Senator Hagel. And I think these attacks are vile, vicious, ugly and unfounded,” he said.