Anti-Semitism, as lawmakers say in letter, has no place in public discourse

Public figures should discuss issues without resorting to ‘hate-filled rants and accusations.’

SHARE Anti-Semitism, as lawmakers say in letter, has no place in public discourse
Maze Jackson speaks during a 2021 rally outside the Chicago Housing Authority headquarters in the Loop, decrying economic disparities for black communities in the city.

Maze Jackson speaks during a 2021 rally outside the Chicago Housing Authority headquarters in the Loop, decrying economic disparities for black communities in the city.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Everyone, particularly in these times of discord, should treat others fairly and with respect.

So-called influencers especially should strive to do so.

We say this after 11 state lawmakers wrote a letter this week to Kari Steele, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, asking her to repudiate remarks by her husband, Maze Jackson. The letter writers called the remarks “hate-filled rants and accusations,” some of which were anti-Semitic.

Jackson is a podcaster who has a YouTube channel and a former WBGX-AM and WVON-AM host. He also has a real estate lobbying firm, the Intelligence Group. Steele is running for Cook County assessor.

Editorial

Editorial

The lawmakers’ letter cites an April 13 incident in which Jackson referred on his show to a “Jewish organization” that he alleged “controls” the affordable housing activists who are part of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of groups working to expand the supply of affordable housing.

Jackson also did not correct his co-host DJ Riis when Riis said, “I’m not voting for JB, he’s a Jew. He don’t know anything.”

In addition, Jackson, according to the letter, targeted media strategist Joanna Klonsky, claiming she was behind a Better Government Association report that he was paid $417,500 to lobby his longtime friend and ally Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who eventually changed his position to favor Jackson’s client. On his program, Jackson held up Klonsky’s photo and said, “So as you know, they quick to exploit us. They quick to exploit us.”

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On Thursday, Jackson said, in part: “I take full responsibility for the words I have said and that were said by others on my show. I recognize that they were wrong, and I sincerely apologize for the pain they have caused the Jewish community.”

Also on Thursday, Steele said, “I unequivocally reject any hateful rhetoric and apologize for the comments made on my husband’s show and the hurt they caused the Jewish community. As a woman of faith, I believe that we must respect everyone’s religion and faith.”

Those were welcome words.

Chicago has a lot of important issues to debate. But, please, all of us, let’s do so without casting hurtful and unnecessary aspersions.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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