The Biden administration’s nominee to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Brazil spoke at length about the influence of Jewish money in politics, claiming the "Jewish lobby" exerts undue influence over the Democratic Party with its "major money."
Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a longtime diplomat and Democratic Party insider, is scheduled on Thursday to have her nomination advanced to the full Senate by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Bagley’s comments about Jewish money in politics—tropes long considered anti-Semitic in nature—are raising red flags among Democratic and Republican members of the committee, senior congressional sources told the Washington Free Beacon.
Bagley, in a 1998 interview, a full copy of which was obtained by the Free Beacon, bemoaned "the influence of the Jewish lobby because there is major money involved." She went on to claim "the Democrats always tend to go with the Jewish constituency on Israel and say stupid things, like moving the capital to Jerusalem always comes up." Support for these Israel-related issues are due to "the Jewish factor, it’s money." The interview was conducted by a historian at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training for an oral history project.
Senate sources involved in the confirmation process said Bagley’s comments should disqualify her from the ambassador’s role and told the Free Beacon that both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate committee have privately expressed concerns about these remarks.
"Under a normal administration this kind of vicious anti-Semitism would be disqualifying. You couldn't get hired as an intern," said one senior congressional Republican staffer, who was not authorized to speak on record about the concerns related to Bagley. "It speaks volumes that the Biden administration was confident enough to nominate Bagley and send her to the Senate for confirmation. They know that Democrats are going to fall into line."
Bagley opened up about the "Jewish lobby" and its impact on Democratic Party politics in the 1998 interview. She was asked about "the Israeli influence" on the Clinton administration, where Bagley served as the ambassador to Portugal.
"There is always the influence of the Jewish lobby because there is major money involved," Bagley said. "But, I don’t remember any major issues coming out on that, besides the usual ‘make Jerusalem the capital of Israel,’ which is always an issue in the campaign."
Democrats, she said, "always tend to go with the Jewish constituency on Israel and say stupid things, like moving the capital to Jerusalem always comes up. Things that we shouldn’t even touch."
"Jewish Democrats," she continued, "were going to give their money to Clinton anyway and Jews are mostly Democrats on social issues."
The "Jewish factor" is not about the raw number of electors who care about these issues, Bagley said, "it’s money."
When questioned about these remarks during a May 18 confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bagley claimed they were the result of a "free-flowing discussion" with the interviewer.
"The language you used in regard to the Jewish community, Israel’s influence on our election, and Jewish money have me concerned," Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) said during the hearing. "The choice of words was fit into the traditional tropes of anti-Semitism."
"I regret that you would think that it was a problem," Bagley told Cardin. "I certainly didn’t mean anything by it. It was a poor choice of words, but it was something that the interviewer had asked me, prompted by something about politics."
Bagley added that she is "very sorry about that choice of words."
Cardin noted that as a career diplomat, Bagley should be trained to more carefully choose her words.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), the committee’s chairman, also expressed alarm over Bagley’s remarks.
"Is it a suggestion that one group of Americans don’t have the right to engage in the political process as others do?" Menendez asked. "Words, especially for those who are going to be ambassadors of the United States to other countries are incredibly important, probably more significant than maybe in our individual daily lives."
Bagley told Menendez she holds no animosity toward Jewish people or the pro-Israel community.