Evan Gahr emails:
He expired today. He was such an apologist for Christian anti-Semitism that I told people jokingly he was the author of Kristalnot: Why Kristalnacht was anti-Shopkeeper not anti-Semitic.
Marty Peretz laughed really loud when I told him that joke. Right when the whole thing started I met with Neuhaus. He was quite charming. I brought Chimpstein with me and told him Chimpstein’s story and he posed with him for me.
First Weyrich then him. I’ve noticed that there’s usually groups of the same kind of people dying around the same time.
I showed Weyrich the picture of Father Neuhaus and he thought it was hillarious. He was a deacon in his Church and he told me that he wanted to get dressed up in this special outfit he wore for Easter and have his picture taken.
I email Evan: "What was the context for Neuhaus holding Chimpstein?"
Evan Gahr replies:
I was fired in 2001. In 2002 I think it was June I was extremely angry and in great pain. I called him up . I think we had talked once before for one of my stories (unrelated to Weyrich). So I called him. He didn’t have the slightest idea who I was. I said I’m in need of spiritual counseling. Can you give a Jew spiritual counseling? He said sure come on down. So I brought a tape recorder because I thought I would interview him about anti-Semitism. So we mainly talked about anti-Semitism.
I asked him about the prominent Baptist minister who in 1980 created a major storm when he said God doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews. Bailey Smith. This was the year after Weyrich had helped Jerry Falwell found the Moral Majority. Weyrich told me when Bailey Smith said this he called up reporters and said of course God hears the prayers of Jews. But none of them quoted him because they had a story line of Christian v. Jew and his comments would have complicated the story. Typical reporters. People overstate liberal media bias. Sheer laziness is the controlling principle in newsrooms not ideology.
Back to Bailey Smith. He quickly apologized by the way but the neo-cons to this day defend him. It’s sort of the way even after Kruschev gave his speech denouncing the crimes of Stalin lefties here still defend him. In 2003 I called Bailey Smith for an unrelated story. I mentioned the controversy and he went on and on how sorry he was and how there was no hatred in his heart for Jews and he loves Jews and he loves Israel. He told me right after he said the Jewish prayer think he went to Israel with something like 30 rabbis to make up for what he said. I told that to Marc Stern a top official at the American Jewish Congress and he said,"Going to Israel with 30 rabbis — that is enough to make anyone an anti-Semite.’"
In 1984 Irving Kristol wrote an essay in Commentary defending Bailey Smith and saying the Jewish reaction was liberal bias. He said who cares what a Protestant minister thinks and he posed no danger to Jews. Of course neither did Jesse Jackson when he said Hymietown but for that the neo-cons savage him to this day.
Back to Father Neuhaus. He told me Bailey Smith’s comment was not anti-Semitic it was just a theological statement. Of course when Farrakhan gave a speech at Madison Square Garden around 1985 and said Judaism is a gutter religion or some such thing that was also a theological statement made by a minister. So by this logic they should have shrugged off his remarks.
So I said I guess you’re going to tell me that Father Coughlin was anti-New Deal not anti-Semitic. He laughed and said no he was probably an anti-Semite.
Then I told him the whole Weyrich/Hudson/Chimpstein story, took out Chimpstein and asked him to pose for the pic.
I just remembered something interesting about Neuahaus that I have due to inside knowledge. Right when the Weyrich thing started Don Feder, a Jewish conservative who is rabidly conservative got an assignment from Neuhaus to defend Weyrich. But maybe two weeks later one of the big Jewish contributors to his magazine I think his name is David Novak and he is a rabbi and historian wrote an article in the Wall STreet Journal criticizing Weyrich and saying his remarks were clearly anti-Semitic. Right after that Neuhaus told Feder that he didn’t want the article defending Weyrich. Feder thought probably correctly that Neuahaus did that because he didn’t want to offend Novak.
So that’s a very long answer to your question. You and many others find this whole thing fascinating but I guess it’s just a matter of me getting things into a format that an editor would want.
I actually want to call you soon to discuss.
By the way, when I talked to David Novak and mentioned Rabbi Lapin defending the Christian Right, he said,"Lapin is a hustler. He’ll say anything anybody wants to hear. But if you print that I’ll deny it."
I laughed and said I guess you know journalism very well. He said yeah my son is a journalist.