As Hagel's nomination dragged on in the Senate last month, my organization, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), found itself unexpectedly pulled right into the middle of the contention surrounding his nomination. Founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk, ADC is now the largest Arab American civil rights organization with members and chapters nationwide. A fringe anti-Arab group accused the Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel of hiding a speech he gave at the ADC National Convention in 2008. What began as a smear campaign against Senator Hagel became a vehicle for attacking Arab Americans. Shockingly, by providing a platform to an extreme right-wing blogger, the Washington Post turned into a central venue for disseminating malicious and dangerous accusations against Arab Americans and ADC.
The Senate confirmation process requires that Senator Hagel submit all available documents related to speeches delivered since 2008. Thus, Hagel's not submitting his speech from the 2008 ADC Convention led to some malicious fabrications. Both Senator Hagel's staff and the Obama administration have maintained that the ADC speech, and many others like it, were "informal." The informality of this speech meant that by law Hagel had no obligation to include it with the other materials submitted. Still, several headlines such as "Hagel Caught Hiding 2 Arab Speeches" and "Hagel Omitted Two Speeches" from Senate disclosure forms continued to emerge on right wing media.
While under no legal obligation, ADC was quick and open in responding to all inquiries pertaining to the speech. We immediately initiated the process of locating and retrieving the video of the speech from ADC's offsite archive, and announced that the video would be available on our website as soon as possible. The video was released within two days. The full recording of the speech is now publicly available on ADC's website. The video did more than just confirm the informal nature of Senator Hagel's remarks at the 2008 convention, it also indicated that the right-wing accusations of Senator Hagel expressing inflammatory ideas in the speech were wholly unfounded.
Despite this, ADC found itself still under the right wing media's harsh spotlight. Having been forthright and transparent in providing information and access to Senator Hagel's speech, ADC expected the media and those behind the growing smear campaign to withdraw their bogus claims. Instead, the individuals behind the campaign, likely disappointed that the speech contained none of the controversial content they had promised, changed the direction of their allegations. No longer focusing on the issue of whether the senator was required to disclose the speech, media outlets -- and disturbingly, even some public officials -- attacked Senator Hagel merely for having spoken to Arab Americans.
The Washington Post's "Right Turn" columnist Jennifer Rubin jumped on the anti-Arab bandwagon. Not only that, she went as far as accusing ADC of criminal activities such as defending terrorist organizations -- a baseless and malicious smear. ADC contacted the Post's executive editor to request a meeting, and he informed us that Mr. Fred Hiatt, editor of the editorial page, "has responsibility for Jennifer Rubin." After multiple attempts to get in touch with Mr. Hiatt, his office informed us that he is "unable to meet with [our] group."
In 2011, after Jennifer Rubin endorsed by neoconservative activist Rachel Decter Abrams' call for mass murdering Palestinians, Patrick Paxton, the Post's ombudsman, concluded that by tweeting this call to violence to Rubin's 7,000 Twitter followers who know her as a Washington Post blogger, "Rubin did damage to the Post and the credibility that keeps it afloat."
Two years later, Jennifer Rubin has more than 27,000 followers on her Twitter account and she continues to damage the Post's credibility. ADC values the Post's effort to bring a wide range of views -- including conservative views -- to its readers. But Jennifer Rubin's attacks on ADC do not serve the Post's goals.
The Washington Post is a highly respected newspaper with a wide readership, and should distance itself from base attempts to smear an entire community using misinformation and sensationalism. The Washington Post should set an example and hold Jennifer Rubin accountable.