Harry Truman reached out from the grave last week and exposed the media’s double standard when it comes to judging Democrats and Republicans. A librarian at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, discovered a 1947 diary of Truman’s that had been sitting unopened on a shelf for some four decades. The book contained the following edifying remarks:
“The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political, neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the underdog.”
The media’s response? Either a rush to “explain” the remarks in a positive light or a relative disinterest (playing down the entries about Jews while highlighting some other aspect of the diary). The New York Times, for example, headlined its July 11 story on the diary “Truman Wrote of ’48 Offer to Eisenhower” – and didn’t get around to blandly mentioning Truman’s anti-Semitic comments until the sixth paragraph.
The Times failed to give its readers the full flavor of Truman’s rant, reproducing only a partial quote from the diary and excising the president’s comparison of Jews – a mere two years after the Holocaust – with Hitler and Stalin.
Just about every media account quoted so-called experts who strained to place Truman’s remarks in historical context and to differentiate between his words and deeds. Such fair-mindedness is, of course, noticeably lacking whenever the media rehash the anti-Semitic state ments made by Richard Nixon, whose deeds vis-a-vis Israel trumped Truman’s – Nixon saved Israel from catastrophe during the Yom Kippur War while Truman, after granting recognition to Israel in 1948, refused to provide desperately needed arms to the new Jewish state as it fought for its life against invading Arab armies.
Some of the aforementioned “experts” professed shock at the very idea that Harry Truman could have harbored dark thoughts toward Jews. Sara Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, reacted with a particularly appalling display of ignorance: “Wow!” she said. “It did surprise me because of what I know about Truman’s record.”
Ms. Bloomfield obviously doesn’t know very much. At a Cabinet meeting in 1946, Truman complained bitterly about Jewish organizational leaders, remarking, “If Jesus Christ couldn’t satisfy them here on earth, how the hell am I supposed to?….I have no use for them and I don’t care what happens to them.”
On another occasion, referring to Jews who were pressing the case for a Jewish state, Truman snapped to some aides, “I’m not a New Yorker. All these people are pleading for a special interest. I’m an American.”
Truman’s anti-Jewish tantrums were hardly limited to his inner circle: Ted Thackrey, editor of the New York Post and husband of the paper’s flamboyant publisher, Dorothy Schiff, recalled how stunned he and his wife were when they paid a call on Truman at the White House and broached the subject of Palestine. “Now, Thackrey,” Truman said, anger visibly rising, “if only the [expletive deleted] New York Jews would just shut their mouths and quit hollering.”
In his book Confessions of a White House Ghostwriter, James Humes, a speech writer for five U.S. presidents, relates a little-known but highly revealing story that was told to him by the television producer David Susskind, who worked on a documentary with Truman several years after the latter left office.
“Susskind,” writes Humes, “said that each morning…he would arrive at Truman’s house at Independence. He would wait on the porch on a cold February day while Mrs. Truman went to inform her husband of his arrival. After about the fourth morning, he asked the president in his walk why he was never asked inside.
” “You’re a Jew, David,” Truman replied, “and no Jew has ever been in the house.” ”
According to Humes, Truman went on to explain to a stunned Susskind that the house was his wife’s: “Bess runs it, and there’s never been a Jew inside the house in her or her mother’s lifetime.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org