House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has hired the controversial editor of a blog recently engulfed in scandal over its use of language that Jewish groups have described as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
Faiz Shakir, the editor in chief of the Center for American Progress’ ThinkProgress blog, is set to become a senior adviser to Pelosi and her office’s director of new media, according to reports.
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Shakir piloted ThinkProgress through a contentious period during which the liberal online outlet faced accusations of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias due to its reporters’ use of the term "Israel firster," language historically associated with white supremacists.
Zaid Jilani, who parted ways with ThinkProgress as a result of the controversy, employed the term on his Twitter feed, writing that "Obama is still beloved by Israel-firsters and getting lots of their $$."
Jewish and Israeli groups, as well as prominent Jewish thought leaders, decried the other incendiary rhetoric on the left-wing site, accusing the writers of fueling anti-Semitism and distrust of Israel. Those charges were echoed by the Obama administration, which described the organization’s hostility to Israel as "deeply troubling" in a report by the Washington Post.
Shakir remained silent as the scandal unfolded, refusing to either apologize for ThinkProgress’ behavior or reprimand its writers for their use of terms popularized by the anti-Semitic fringe.
He did, however, admit in a leaked internal email that he found the term "Israel firster" to be repulsive.
"Yes, I agree ‘Israel Firster’ is terrible, anti-Semitic language, and that’s why that language no longer exists on Zaid’s personal twitter feed, because he also knows and understands the implications," Shakir wrote, according to emails obtained by the Jerusalem Post.
Publicly, CAP officials decried the accusations as flatly untrue.
CAP and ThinkProgress were so damaged by the controversy that the organization hired a prominent Democratic PR group to do damage control in the Jewish community.
Shakir’s is the latest in a string of departures from the ThinkProgress blog over the last six months, including Matthew Yglesias, Lee Fang, and Jilani.