NEW YORK — Whoopi Goldberg has been suspended for two weeks as co-host of “The View” because of what the head of ABC News called her “wrong and hurtful comments” about Jews and the Holocaust.
“While Whoopi has apologized, I’ve asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments. The entire ABC News organization stands in solidarity with our Jewish colleagues, friends, family and communities,” ABC News President Kim Godwin said in a statement posted Tuesday on Twitter.
The suspension came a day after Goldberg’s comment during a discussion on “The View” that race was not a factor in the Holocaust. Goldberg apologized hours later and again on Tuesday’s morning episode, but the original remark drew condemnation from several prominent Jewish leaders.
“My words upset so many people, which was never my intention,” she said Tuesday morning. “I understand why now and for that I am deeply, deeply grateful because the information I got was really helpful and helped me understand some different things.”
Goldberg made her original comments during a discussion on the show Monday about a Tennessee school board’s banning of “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Nazi death camps during World War II. She said the Holocaust was “not about race ... it’s about man’s inhumanity to other man.”
“I misspoke,” Goldberg said at the opening of Tuesday’s show.
“The View” brought on Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and author of “It Could Happen Here,” on Tuesday to discuss why her words had been hurtful.
“Jewish people at the moment are feeling besieged,” Greenblatt said.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised Goldberg for being outspoken over the years on social issues but said he struggled to understand her statement on the Holocaust.
“The only explanation that I have for it is that there is a new definition of racism that has been put out there in the public recently that defines racism exclusively as the targeting of people of color. And obviously history teaches us otherwise,” Cooper said.
“Everything about Nazi Germany and about the targeting of the Jews and about the Holocaust was about race and racism. That’s the unfortunate, unassailable historic fact,” he said.
Kenneth L. Marcus, chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, linked Goldberg’s remarks to broader misconceptions of the Holocaust, Jewish identity and antisemitism.
“In her error, she was reflecting a misunderstanding of Jewish identity that is both widespread and dangerous that is sometimes described as erasive antisemitism,” said Marcus, who is the author of ‘The Definition of Anti-Semitism.’
“It is the notion that Jews should be viewed only as being white, privileged oppressors,” he said. “It denies Jewish identity and involves a whitewashing of Jewish history.”
Marcus referred to the use of anti-Jewish stereotypes “about being powerful, controlling and sinister,” coupled with downplaying or denying antisemitism.
In Israel, being Jewish is rarely seen in racial terms, in part because of the country’s great diversity. The Jewish population, which makes up about 80% of the overall population, includes Jews with roots in Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa as well as recent immigrants from such places as the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
Yet Jewish identity goes far beyond religion. Israelis typically refer to the “Jewish people” or “Jewish nation,” describing a group or civilization bound together by a shared history, culture, language and traditions and deep ties to Jewish communities overseas.
On “The View” Monday, Goldberg had expressed surprise that some Tennessee school board members were uncomfortable about nudity in “Maus.”
“I mean, it’s about the Holocaust, the killing of 6 million people, but that didn’t bother you?” she said. “If you’re going to do this, then let’s be truthful about it. Because the Holocaust isn’t about race. No, it’s not about race.”
She continued on that line despite pushback from some of her fellow panelists.
Joy Behar said that the Nazis said Jews were a different race.
“But it’s not about race. It’s not. It’s about man’s inhumanity to other man,” Goldberg replied.
Ana Navarro responded: “But it’s about white supremacy. It’s about going after Jews and Gypsies and Roma.”
Goldberg said: “But these are two white groups of people.”
Sara Haines pointed out that the Nazis didn’t see Jewish people as white.
“But you’re missing the point!” Goldberg said. “The minute you turn it into race, it goes down this alley. Let’s talk about it for what it is. It’s how people treat each other. It’s a problem.”