Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli seemed to suggest on Saturday that his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, is a New York Jew.
Cuccinelli, who is running on a platform of banning all oral sex in the state, including between married heterosexuals, was at a rally with embattled GOP governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, when Cuccinelli complained about the veracity of McAuliffe’s advertising.
“He hasn’t run one ad since the summer or in the autumn about anything except what an apparently terrible human being I’m supposed to be,” Cuccinelli said of the McAuliffe ads. “I shaved my horns just for you all. They’ve been lying through their teeth. I’ll tell you, he brought plenty of chutzpah from New York with him. Never seen anything like it.”
A few points.
First, it’s hard to miss the “plenty of chutzpah from New York” comment. I immediately thought, “Terry McAuliffe is Jewish?” And even googled it. (He’s not - McAuliffe is Roman Catholic.)
I’m suspecting that not a lot of Virginians use the phrase chutzpah. It’s an odd word to use. And Cuccinelli didn’t just use it once, he used the word two days before in a press release blasting President Obama and, again, Terry McAuliffe. That means the word choice is part of some specific strategy.
And the word “chutzpah,” which is Yiddish for “audacity,” among other things, already comes across as pretty Jewish. But it’s especially Jewish (in a bigoted way) when you associate it with New York and being slippery and deceitful.
There’s a classic episode of the television show “West Wing,” in fact the first episode of the first season, where White House deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman (who is Jewish) makes a snippy comment criticizing Christian conservatives and one of their leaders, Mary Marsh, during a TV appearance. The religious right is livid and demands a meeting at the White House. Here’s what happens during that meeting:
Mary Marsh (religious right leader): It was only a matter of time with you Josh. That New York sense of humor was just…
Rev. Lloyd Russell (a Jerry Falwell -type character): Mary…
Mary Marsh: Reverend, please, they think they’re so much smarter. They think it’s ‘smart talk.’ But nobody else does.
Josh Lyman (White House deputy chief of staff): I’m actually from Connecticut, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, Mary…
Toby Ziegler (White House communications director): She meant ‘Jewish.’
Toby Ziegler: What she said, ‘New York sense of humor.’ She was talking about you and me.
But in case you’re bad at math, and didn’t watch “West Wing,” Cuccinelli helps you out. He throws in a second age-old anti-semitic slur to seal the deal:
“I shaved my horns just for you all.”
One of the core anti-semitic slurs over the ages has been that Jews aren’t quite human, and have horns. From the Hollywood Reporter:
Growing up in a Jewish family in New York, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer never had issues with prejudice — until she took a college trip to Kansas. “They had never seen a Jew before … and literally someone said they thought Jews had horns,” she recalls.
Cuccinelli’s reference to “shaving my horns,” meaning he’s not a “terrible human being,” is a direct reference to the age-old anti-semitic myth of Jews, aka bad people, having horns. And he mentions it in the sentence before he goes off about McAuliffe’s “New York chutzpah.” If it’s all an unfortunate coincidence, it’s one heck of a coincidence.
Here are a few anti-Semitic cartoons from the Arab press, showing Jews with horns.
Virginia Republicans have a proud history of using ethnic slurs on the campaign speeches. The most famous in recent times was former US Senator George Allen (R-VA) who referred to an Indian-American as “macaca,” a slur word for dark-skinned people, comparing them in essence to a monkey. Here’s that famous moment immortalized on video: