BY: Follow @Kredo0
A top official at a left wing Jewish group that claims to have the White House’s ear expressed disappointment yesterday in a major speech given by Iranian President Hassan Rowhani at the United Nations.
Elsner then tweeted a pro-Rowhani message on Wednesday morning, but promptly deleted that as well.
Insiders say the conflicting messages may be indicative of disarray at J Street, a group that has suffered many public relations setbacks as it lobbies to normalize relations with Iran and Rowhani despite his anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric.
They say J Street has struggled to balance its purportedly pro-Israel brand with its close ties to pro-Iran lobbying groups such as the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that has come under fire from Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.) for pushing what he called Iranian “propaganda.”
NIAC worked closely with J Street during a failed bid to convince Congress to increase diplomacy with Iran earlier this year.
“There was widespread disappointment in Rowhani’s speech, but [J Street] can’t say so out loud because they’re shilling for Iran, and their friends are shilling for Iran,” said one official with a pro-Israel organization.
“Anyway, they’re not very good at honesty,” the official added, referencing multiple scandals in which J Street has been accused of misleading journalists.
J Street has a history of making very public missteps and has been hobbled by what insiders describe as a public relations department marred by disarray and a lack of discipline.
The group embarrassed former Atlantic reporter Chris Good in 2010 when it misled him about the sources of its funding. Good was forced to correct his article and write a follow up piece criticizing J Street’s “set of half-truths, non-truths, and ambiguities.”
J Street has also publicly butted heads with Democratic members of Congress who once supported it.
The group’s failure to defend Israel when it was attacked at the U.N. in 2011 led former Rep. Gary Ackerman (D., N.Y.) to deem it “so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”
Elsner was hired almost a year ago to help fix these persistent messaging problems.
However, his most recent tweets could undermine confidence in his ability to repair J Street’s notoriously broken messaging apparatus, insiders say.
Immediately after expressing disappointment in Rowhani yesterday afternoon, Elsner made what some described as a controversial remark about the person translating the Iranian president’s speech into English.
“I feel a bit wiolated,” Elsner tweeted in what appeared to be a jab at the translator’s heavy foreign accent.
That tweet was also deleted moments after it was sent.
Elsner then praised Rowhani on Wednesday morning, tweeting: “Takes a special type of sourness to be upset when Iran’s leader finally condemns Holocaust. Of course life was simpler with [former Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad.”
He quickly deleted the tweet moments later.
Elsner also found himself at the center of another public relations mishap earlier this year when J Street attempted to cover up evidence of a failed Boston event.
Elsner was scheduled to address J Street supporters in Boston. However, the event was canceled due to a lack of attendance. J Street then attempted to mask evidence of the event ever having been planned.
Elsner has limited experience in the world of public affairs. He worked for three decades as a Reuters reporter and book author.
Yet even in these communities Elsner’s work proved controversial.
J Street did not respond to a request for comment.