What is Judith Regan's Sin?

12/21/2006 02:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Humorless curmudgeon Abraham H. Foxman, who runs the Anti-Defamation League, has issued a public condemnation of publisher Judith Regan in which he wonders why Regan "resorted to raising the Jewish issue" in the telephone conversation with HarperCollins lawyer Mark Jackson that got her fired. That's a good question, and the lack of consensus as to what exactly Regan meant, underscores the extreme arbitrariness of her termination. Team Murdoch is carrying on as if Regan's comments are obviously anti-Semitic, but it's far from obvious she expressed any such sentiment, and other than the hypersensitive Foxman, nobody has even tried to explain the pejorative nature of identifying perceived enemies as Jews, which according to HarperCollins, is about the only thing Regan did that caused her dismissal. Specifically, HarperCollins has accused Regan of opining that Jews "should know about ganging up, finding common enemies and telling the big lie" and of characterizing her detractors as a "Jewish cabal."

So why did Regan mention the religion of her supposed antagonists? Was she implying that all Jews naturally conspire against all Gentiles, or was she suggesting only particular Jews who've allegedly been ganging up on her are so inclined? Or maybe she was arguing that all or certain Jews are misogynistic, and she has been targeted because she is a strong woman. Perhaps Regan actually meant that all or certain Jews are controlling, or secretive, or cranky, or argumentative, or stupid, or incompetent, or mean. Was she trying to tell Jackson that whatever bias she ascribes to Jews is omnipresent, or something that exists only in certain circumstances? Although Regan's precise meaning cannot be readily ascertained, Team Murdoch's strange position seems to be that there is no doubt something about what she said is somehow anti-Semitic, and for some mysterious reason, they just can't be specific about that which they purport to be certain.

Of course it's possible Regan didn't mean anything derogatory, and there's nothing to what she said beyond the plain meaning of the words she spoke, which is that given the historic persecution of Jews, when the decency czars came after her over news of a book that offended them, she would have expected greater support than what she got from ostensible allies who are Jewish. Why is expressing that feeling a fireable offense so egregious that it warrants an immediate physical ejection of Regan from her office by security guards? What sort of a tattletale is Jackson that hearing Regan's outlook would prompt him to complain to higher ups?

Regan's dismissal and the cancellation of her O.J. Simpson project are the consequences of forces that are both censorial and tyrannical. The vigilantes who pressured Rupert Murdoch into withholding "If I Did It" from the public, never bothered to reveal how Simpson might be entitled to earn income, nor did they indicate what rule he broke, and now Regan herself has been subjected to a similarly vague charge. In both cases, disapproving bullies who possess no discernible principles have demonstrated a dangerous lust for random punishment, while Regan and Simpson, whatever their sins might otherwise be, have done nothing but express harmless opinions.