By Jonathan Easley - 10/20/11 12:05 AM EDT
Republicans launched a new attack on Democrats and the Occupy Wall Street movement on Wednesday, accusing party leaders of being silent in response to episodes of anti-Semitism in the demonstrations.
The exchanges represented a turnabout from two years ago, when Democrats were the ones warning of racism at Tea Party events. Republicans at the time said Democrats were trying to paint a negative image of a broad movement based on the actions of a few people.
“Folks were quick to denounce the Tea Party because of a minority in that group saying inappropriate and unacceptable things,” RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday.
“So when you’re standing firm with Occupy Wall Street and asking people to join the movement, it should be a problem when protesters are vocal over and over again about hatred toward one group. It’s the hypocrisy of it.”
In a memo released Tuesday, Spicer singled out President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for backing the protests while ignoring anti-Semitic comments made by some protesters.
The memo included three videos showing anti-Semitic outbursts by purported Wall Street protesters. Spicer said the RNC was not involved with the production of the videos.
“I think that the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, which is not run by the federal government, I think they need to be run out of this country,” said one protester, who identified herself as an employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
A spokesman for Pelosi denounced anti-Semitism and said the incidents shown in the video had no place in a discussion about the economy.
“Anti-Semitism and hate speech have absolutely no place in our country and must be condemned wherever they occur. Fanning the flames of hate will not advance the creation of jobs in America," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.
The ADL came to a similar conclusion about the Tea Party in 2009, when it said that “such extremists were a tiny minority of Tea Party protesters” and reported on the unsuccessful attempts of white supremacists to infiltrate the group.
Spicer agreed that the anti-Semitic sentiments were not indicative of the Occupy Wall Street movement as a whole. The memo, he said, was simply intended to highlight what he says is a double standard.
Since its inception one month ago, both parties have struggled with how to approach the Occupy Wall Street movement. Although polls indicate the movement is predominantly left-leaning, Democrats have been hesitant to embrace the group until recently.
The protests have also been difficult for Republicans.
House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorLobbying world The Trail 2016: 11 hours, 800 pages, 0 changed minds Juan Williams: The capitulation of Paul Ryan MORE (R-Va.) called the movement a “growing mob” earlier this month before backtracking to say the protesters are “justifiably frustrated” with the financial system and weak economy.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump hires Rand Paul's former digital director: report Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Overnight Healthcare: Blame game over Zika funding MORE (R-Ky.) avoided criticism of the protests during an interview on Fox News.
“It’s a free country. People can have their say. We’ve had a robust freedom of speech in this country for over 200 years and it sounds to me like it continues,” McConnell said.
Asked if the protests were “organic” or being supported by Democratic or left-wing groups, McConnell again returned to his argument about free speech, saying people “are free to express themselves in the country on any subject they choose to.”
McConnell did add his thought that the demonstrators feel “the president has not been successful in getting us out of this economic trough.”
This story was updated at 5:35 p.m. on Oct. 20.