ADL task force to study anti-Semitism directed at journalists

Panel includes Jewish reporters harassed online by Trump supporters; media experts will recommend a response by end of summer

Julia Ioffe gives an interview to CNN in September 2013 (YouTube screenshot)
Julia Ioffe gives an interview to CNN in September 2013 (YouTube screenshot)

WASHINGTON — With Jewish journalists increasingly targeted with anti-Semitic harassment and threats in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, the Anti-Defamation League has created a task force to analyze the growing trend and propose an effective response by the end of the summer.

“Journalists are used to being criticized, but this election cycle we repeatedly have seen criticism quickly cross the line into ugly anti-Semitic and other hateful attacks including death threats,” ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ADL’s task force will assess “the scope and source of anti-Semitic, racist and other harassment of journalists, commentators, and others on social media”; determine “whether and how this harassment is having an impact on the electorate or if it has a chilling effect on free speech”; and offer “solutions and/or countermeasures that can prevent journalists becoming targets for hate speech and harassment on social media in the future,” according to the organization.

The new committee includes members of the media and academics at leading journalism schools in the United States, such as Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Brad Hamm, dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism; Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Maryland law school and an expert on online harassment; Leon Wieseltier, former literary editor of The New Republic and now a contributing editor at The Atlantic and Isaiah Berlin senior fellow in culture and policy at the Brookings Institution.

Also participating in the task force are Jewish journalists Julia Ioffe and Bethany Mandel. Ioffe, a freelance journalist and GQ Magazine contributor, was recently subjected to a torrent of anti-Semitic invective following her profile of Melania Trump. After the piece was published on April 28, Ioffe received a barrage of insults and threats through social media, emails and phone calls.

“I’m getting phone calls from a blocked number that play Hitler’s speeches when I pick up,” she tweeted.

Ioffe later said that the hatred she experienced reminded her of what her family experienced in Russia before they immigrated to the US 26 years ago. She has lodged a complaint with the Washington, DC Police Department.

Republican candidate Donald Trump’s wife responded to Ioffe’s plight last month in an interview with Du Jour magazine, in which she implied the journalist brought this reaction on herself.

Trump was asked by the reporter, Mickey Rapkin: “If people put a swastika on my face once this article comes out, will [you] denounce them?”

She responded: “I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”

Mandel, a contributor to the New York Post and the Jewish Daily Forward, was also targeted by violent social media messages. Mandel wrote about the experience in an article titled “My Trump Tweets Earned Me So Many Anti-Semitic Haters That I Bought a Gun”

Other Jewish journalists who have experienced similar abuse have included Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times, Jake Tapper of CNN and Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.

After Weisman tweeted an essay about the political rise of Trump by the neoconservative political scientist Robert Kagan — entitled “This is how fascism comes to America” — he soon became an object of anti-Semitic scorn. Weisman retweeted many of the tweets directed at him to reveal the hateful and derogatory nature of the onslaught.

He also wrote about his experience with anti-Semitic harassment following his tweet in an essay in The New York Times, which ran in the May 29 print edition.

While many journalists who have been the victims of anti-Jewish abuse have said it came from Trump supporters, the presumptive Republican nominee has yet to condemn this kind of behavior, and the ADL did not mention Trump in its statement.

JTA contributed to this report.

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