Maddow Attacks Judicial Nominee for Pro-Israel Article

Maddow cherry-picked, misread 2010 law-review article

Television host Rachel Maddow arrives for a lunch hosted in honor of Prime Minister David Cameron at the State Department on March 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
August 16, 2019

Rachel Maddow launched a lengthy attack on a nominee for the Second Circuit on Thursday, misrepresenting his argument in a 2010 law review article in a smear some are deeming anti-Semitic.

In the segment, Maddow goes after Steven Menashi's argument in an article titled "Ethnonationalism and Liberal Democracy," claiming his article was a "high-brow argument for racial purity" and a case for "how definitely democracy can't work unless the country is defined by a unifying race."

Ed Whelan explains Maddow's distortion at National Review Online:

Menashi's specific purpose in the article is to refute claims that "Israel's particularistic identity—its desire to serve as a homeland for the Jewish people—contradicts principles of universalism and equality upon which liberal democracy supposedly rests." In fact, argues Menashi, "[p]articularistic nationalism and liberal democracy … emerged together at the same historical moment and persisted in symbiosis." Further, the "idea that a sovereign democratic government represents a particular ethnonational community has its root in the principle of 'self-determination of peoples' espoused at the foundation of the League of Nations and the United Nations." Surveying the laws of European nations, he further explains that Israel's Law of Return, which guarantees citizenship to Jews worldwide, is similar to kin-repatriation policies that are widespread throughout Europe. In sum, "[f]ar from being unique, the experience of Israel exemplifies the character of liberal democracy by highlighting its dependence on particularistic nation-states."

Menashi's argument about national identity is not about "racial purity," Whelan argues; rather, Menashi contends that national identity requires "that a people are 'united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others, which make them cooperate with each other more willingly than with other people, [and] desire to be under the same government.'"

"That—and not race—is clearly what Menashi means by his broader concept of ethnic, or 'ethnocultural' or ethnonational, identification," Whelan continues.

Following Menashi's argument, one could argue that "all people, irrespective of race or of narrower concepts of ethnicity, who see themselves as part of the American national community do share an ethnonational identity."

Menashi is currently a special assistant to President Donald Trump and senior associate counsel to the president. He previously taught law at George Mason University. His paternal grandparents were Iraqi Jews who lived in Baghdad and Tehran before moving to Israel.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network, said Maddow "should be ashamed of herself."

"@maddow should be ashamed of herself for the anti-Semitic rant she just launched against 2nd Circuit nominee Steven Menashi. Had she actually read his law-review article, she would know that Menashi says the exact opposite of what Maddow claims. Intentional distortion?" Severino tweeted.

"MSNBC allows @maddow to accuse an Iraqi Jew of racism because she can't comprehend the highly qualified social science evidence cited in his law review article published by @Penn. How can @MSNBC allow her to stay on air? This is both ignorant & defamatory," the Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted.