Florida Jews' Opposition to Obama a Result of Ignorance, Racism

A Times reporter names individuals who she accuses of making false statements about Obama's heritage and lack of support for Israel.

Throughout the campaign, the New York Times has been inordinately protective of Obama, guarding him against claims that he is a Muslim or that he is anti-Israel. Jodi Kantor's front-page story Thursday, "As Obama Heads to Florida, Many of Its Jews Have Doubts," goes even further. Kantor not only took great pains to correct the "novel and exotic rumors" around Obama, but even named individual elderly Jews in Florida who she accuses of making false statements about Obama. That's a tactic the Times hardly ever performed for conservative Republican candidate Mitt Romney when he was attacked on all sides for his Mormonism, or supporters of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's wacky theories about 9-11 or AIDS.

Because of a dispute over moving the date of the state's primary, Mr. Obama and the other Democratic candidates did not campaign in Florida. In his absence, novel and exotic rumors about Mr. Obama have flourished. Among many older Jews, and some younger ones, as well, he has become a conduit for Jewish anxiety about Israel, Iran, anti-Semitism and race.

Mr. Obama is Arab, Jack Stern's friends told him in Aventura. (He's not.)

He is a part of Chicago's large Palestinian community, suspects Mindy Chotiner of Delray. (Wrong again.)

Mr. Wright is the godfather of Mr. Obama's children, asserted Violet Darling in Boca Raton. (No, he's not.)

Al Qaeda is backing him, said Helena Lefkowicz of Fort Lauderdale (Incorrect.)

Al Qaeda may not back Obama, but a representative of Hamas does.

More defense:

Michelle Obama has proven so hostile and argumentative that the campaign is keeping her silent, said Joyce Rozen of Pompano Beach. (Mrs. Obama campaigns frequently, drawing crowds in her own right.)

Mr. Obama might fill his administration with followers of Louis Farrakhan, worried Sherry Ziegler. (Extremely unlikely, given his denunciation of Mr. Farrakhan.)

South Florida is "the most concentrated area in the country in terms of misinformation" about Mr. Obama, said Representative Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida, the co-chairman of the Obama campaign in the state. His surrogates can put these fears to rest, Mr. Wexler said, by simply repeating the facts about Mr. Obama - his correct biography, his support for Israel, his positions on other important issues.

Kantor assumes as fact Obama's "support for Israel," though his support for negotiations with Iran without conditions gives many Israel supporters pause.

Next she moved on to the Times' most common and potent defense of Obama - an attack, actually, suggesting that dislike of the most liberal senator is motivated by racial fears:

But the resistance toward Mr. Obama appears to be rooted in something more than factual misperception; even those with an accurate understanding of Mr. Obama share the hesitations. In dozens of interviews, South Florida Jews questioned his commitment to Israel - even some who knew he earns high marks from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which lobbies the United States government on behalf of Israel.

Some of the resistance to Mr. Obama's candidacy seems just as rooted in anxiety about race as in anxiety about Israel. At brunch in Boynton Beach, Bob Welstein, who said he was in his 80s, said so bluntly. "Am I semi-racist? Yes," he said.

Decades earlier, on the west side of Chicago, his mother was mugged and beaten by a black assailant, he said. It was "a beautiful Jewish neighborhood" - until black residents moved in, he said.