A manufactured controversy

The heavily Jewish audience in attendance at the Republican Jewish Coalition Minnesota chapter meeting this past Tuesday evening understood gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen’s remarks perfectly.   I was there.  As I reported in “Who owns German history?,” we gave him a standing ovation.

I have been told that our candidate event this past Tuesday evening was the most well-attended event in the history of the chapter.  As a Jewish member of the Minnesota chapter since its founding — we are grateful for our Christian members, but I’m Jewish —  I have attended every comparable candidate event.  It is the only standing ovation I recall a candidate receiving.

Piling absurdity upon absurdity, Star Tribune reporter Briana Bierschbach has helped turn Jensen’s remarks into a controversy.   Her widely read August 24 story extracted a quote from a recording of Jensen’s remarks at the RJC event made by an unknown person who violated the ground rules set for the event. 

The event was closed to the press and off the record. Bierschbach  herself accordingly did not attend it. I infer that she relied on a recording slipped to her by someone acting on behalf of an undisclosed third-party for ulterior purposes.  I emailed Bierschbach on Thursday morning to ask if she had received a recording — my email to her is in my linked post above — but she has not responded.

Now Bierschbach is back with the inevitable follow-up story:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wants his Republican opponent Scott Jensen to apologize for comments likening COVID-19 mandates to measures during the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, calling the comparison “hurtful and dangerous.”

Several Jewish groups and elected officials have criticized Jensen for the comments and asked him to stop making the comparison, saying it’s insensitive to liken anything to the Holocaust.

“The community itself simply said stop, and a simple apology and moving on would have moved us on to other things,” Walz said in a Friday campaign news conference. “But now it’s apparent this is not a slip of the tongue. This is not a random issue. This an arrogance of dismissing people who know and understanding that the governor’s rhetoric has immense impact on the citizens of Minnesota.”

Jensen defended his comments this week, including in front of a crowd of Jewish Republicans, saying Democrats are trying to distract voters from their record on issues such as crime and the economy.

Later in the evening, at the Jewish GOP event with other Republican statewide candidates for office, Jensen echoed those comparisons and said Democrats were trying to “demonize” him and distract voters from their party’s record on issues such as crime and the economy.

“What’s happened over the last two and a half years has parallels to what happened with the 1933 banning of books, banning of Jewish authors, burning of books, Kristallnacht in 1938,” he said. “This was a sequence of events that should never have been happening. It should never have been turned away from. It should have been elevated, but the media wasn’t there, and we’re seeing the same thing in America today.

The reaction of the mostly Jewish audience to Jensen’s remarks belies this fabricated controversy. However, Bierschbach has yet to report it.  As I say, she wasn’t there, but I wrote her on Thursday morning to make the point.  There is no excuse for it to have gone unmentioned in this story.

Reading Bierschbach, one would be misled into believing that she attended the RJC event.  One would never know she wasn’t there.  One would never know that she drew on a recording or report made by someone acting on behalf of a third-party.  [But see CORRECTION below.] One would never know that a Jewish audience including former Senator Rudy Boschwitz — we represent some substantial part of “the community” that Walz purports to invoke — gave Jensen a standing ovation.

Another job well done, Star Tribune style.

CORRECTION: Bierschbach’s August 24 story (both hard copy and online) includes the paragraph: “Jensen doubled down on those comments in a video posted to Facebook on Tuesday and again at an event with the Republican Jewish Coalition, according to audio obtained by the DFL Party and provided to the Star Tribune. A reporter for the Star Tribune was told the event was closed to the press.” I regret my error in overlooking the paragraph. The point remains — Bierschbach wasn’t there and has yet to report the reaction of the mostly Jewish audience.

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