TRANSCRIPT: ADL’s Greenblatt on Friedman’s Past Comments

David Friedman

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on Tuesday commented for the first time on President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of David Friedman to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

Friedman has come under fire for comments he made during the presidential election about J Street, who he described as “worse than Kapos,” and for referring to ADL leaders as “morons.”

“I don’t see how anybody can take the Anti-Defamation League seriously going forward,” Friedman told Jewish Insider in an interview on the eve of the presidential election.

“Mr. Friedman apparently said these things before he was a diplomat, and I think calling the Anti-Defamation League or deriding us or attacking other Jews as Nazi collaborators, these are hardly diplomatic things to say,” Greenblatt said in an interview with with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” program on Tuesday. “With that said, we’re not going to engage in partisan politics. I’ve got one job, which is fighting hate and extremism… We are going to stick to our job, which is defending the Jewish people and other minorities from prejudice and hate, no matter what names anybody chooses to call us.”

Greenblatt said he is looking forward to the confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “where we will be able to probe and judge him not on a few stray comments, but on his qualifications and beliefs that he would bring to this important job.”

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Read the full transcript below:

Lawrence O’Donnell: “Donald Trump has nominated his bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, to be the next Ambassador to Israel. David Friedman has apparently done a good job of using bankruptcy law to save Donald Trump from paying his bills, but he has no experience or expertise in Middle East policy or diplomacy of any kind. He is in all of his public statements about as diplomatic as Donald Trump and he is about as willing to tell the truth as Donald Trump is.

“He said Huma Abedin has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has said that Jewish liberal who support a Washington lobbying group, J Street, are worse than Jewish collaborators with the Nazis during World War II. When Senator Al Franken expressed concerns about anti-Semitic imagery used in the Trump campaign, David Friedman called Senator Franken a moron. Senator Franken will, of course, have a vote in the confirmation of David Friedman as the US Ambassador to Israel.”

“Joining us now, Johnathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. Johnathan, what’s your reaction to this choice for Ambassador to Israel?”

Jonathan Greenblatt: “Well, look, Lawrence, I don’t know David Friedman. I’ve never met him before, but the President has the right to choose his own diplomats. What I do know is that it appears David Friedman is both, A, very committed to Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people and, B, very close to the President-elect, so I think those are some positive signs. But make no mistake, this isn’t some sleepy diplomatic outpost. This is one of our most important embassies in the world, in the most volatile region in the world. So I look forward to, and I think all Americans would look forward to, the hearing that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct where we will be able to probe and judge him not on a few stray comments, but on his qualifications and beliefs that he would bring to this important job.”

Lawrence: By the way, about your organization, the Anti-Defamation League, David Friedman has said, “I don’t see how anybody can take the Anti-Defamation League seriously.” What’s your reaction to that?

Greenblatt: “Look, Mr. Friedman apparently said these things before he was a diplomat, and I think calling the Anti-Defamation League or deriding us or attacking other Jews as Nazi collaborators, these are hardly diplomatic things to say. With that said, we’re not going to engage in partisan politics. I’ve got one job, which is fighting hate and extremism. We’ve seen a surge of hate crimes over the last six weeks that have been incredibly troubling both from the extreme right and we’ve seen issues on the radical left. Let me be clear, we are going to stick to our job, which is defending the Jewish people and other minorities from prejudice and hate, no matter what names anybody chooses to call us.”

After playing a tape of J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami vowing to lobby Senators to block Friedman’s nomination, Lawrence: It sounds like he’s headed for some opposition in the Senate.

Greenblatt: “It would seem that way, and I think what you pointed out about Mr. Franken having a role and a vote on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is really important. But again, because this job is so crucial, like other ambassadorial posts, the Senate will have the opportunity, the American people will hear exactly where he stands and what he believes. We should just mention for a moment, you don’t get to pick and choose an Ambassador who you represent based on their political persuasion. He will have to represent all Americans – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and in that role, I hope he is ready to have an inclusive approach to the interests of all of the American people.”


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