Did you hear the one about the “head of the Jewish faith” who, in greeting the new pope, hands the pontiff an ancient document. “What is this?” the pope asks, to which the Jew replies, “It’s the bill for the Last Supper.”
That, more or less, is how John C. Whitbeck, Jr., a Leesburg attorney and 10th Congressional District Republican Committee chairman, warmed up a tea party crowd yesterday at a rally for Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II.
Whitbeck didn’t respond to a phone call and email from WJW, but he told Washington Free Beacon that the joke, which managed to accuse Jews of being cheap and killing Jesus, wasn’t anti-Semitic.
“At yesterday’s rally, I told a joke. I did not tell an anti-Semitic joke. I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service,” he said, and went on to blame the negative reaction on American Bridge, a Democratic-oriented watchdog political action committee.
Cuccinelli on Wednesday termed Whitbeck’s joke telling, which was received with brief laughter, “inappropriate and certainly unfortunate,” according to The Washington Post. Cuccinelli was not at the rally when Whitbeck offered the zinger. Video of the joke is available here.
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, called the laughter a “nervous reaction,” showing that the crowd was sensitive to Whitbeck’s comments being, at best, “a bad error in judgment.”
“There is no room in honest civil political discourse to use any group as a way to warm up a crowd,” Halber said, and called on Whitbeck to close the incident by apologizing. “If he doesn’t issue an apology, he should resign.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council stated it is “pleased that Mr. Cuccinelli has apologized for his supporter’s inappropriateness, but we remain concerned that the tea party audience enjoyed the joke and that this type of insensitivity seems to permeate Republican gatherings in Virginia this year.”
Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria said in a statement, “Virginians deserve better from those who seek to hold our state’s highest office. I call on Ken Cuccinelli to decline the endorsement of the man who made them and set a higher standard for himself and his campaign.”
UPDATE Sept. 23. The Washington Post reported that Whitbeck posted an apology on the 10th District Committee website: “Earlier this week, I made a lighthearted attempt at humor to which some have taken offense. “It was certainly not my intent to offend anyone and I sincerely apologize to those who were.”