Officials at CAP, which publishes research and writing on many subjects, said the “inappropriate” language came only in personal tweets — not on CAP’s Web site or its ThinkProgress blog. The tweets were deleted, and the authors apologized.
Among the points of contention are Twitter posts by one CAP writer on his personal account referring to “Israel-firsters.” Some experts say the phrase has roots in the anti-Semitic charge that American Jews are more loyal to a foreign country, Israel, than to the United States. In another case, a staffer described a U.S. senator as showing more fealty to the prime U.S. pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, than to his own constituents. The first writer has since left the staff.
But the critics also point to writings on the CAP Web site, where staffers have suggested that AIPAC was pushing the United States toward war with Iran and likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to the policies of the segregated American South.
One reason the comments are drawing special scrutiny is because CAP is an idea generator for Obama’s Washington. CAP’s chairman and former president, John Podesta, is a part-time adviser to the State Department and a onetime chief of staff in the Clinton White House. There is no indication that he was involved with the controversial material.
Some major Jewish groups have demanded corrective action by the think tank and asked for answers from friends in the White House.
“The language is corrosive and unacceptable,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He added that the blog posts and tweets from CAP staffers “are the responsibility of the adults who run the place, not only the kids who play.”
Cooper conveyed his concerns about CAP during a White House meeting last week with Obama’s newly appointed Jewish community liaison, Jarrod Bernstein, who told Cooper that the situation at CAP was “troubling” and not reflective of “this administration.”
CAP officials say the incidents in question were an anomaly.
“The clear and overwhelming record of the literally hundreds of articles and policy papers from the Center for American Progress and ThinkProgress demonstrates our longstanding support both for Israel and the two-state solution to the Middle East peace process as being in the moral and national security interests of the United States,” Ken Gude, chief of staff for CAP, wrote in an e-mail response to questions from The Post.