The Internet—or at least the part of the Internet that indulges in these types of things—is abuzz over outrageous and offensive comments made by the vice president of a very conservative Christian organization at a very conservative conference last week.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s now-highly circulated report, Retired Lt. General and Family Research Council Vice President Jerry Boykin was caught on a “hot mic”—following a panel on “Benghazigate: The Ugly Truth and the Cover-up” at the National Security Action Summit—claiming that President Obama uses “subliminal messages” to communicate his support for al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Boykin also responded to an interview request from an Israeli News outlet by saying, “the Jews are the problem. The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.”
While there’s no dispute over whether Boykin said these outrageous and offensive things (his words and the laughter they received can be heard on a video recording of the event here) the reports of Boykin’s comments miss one minor, though arguably crucial, point. Contrary to reports, Boykin says this wasn’t a “hot mic” situation at all. For those disturbed by Boykin’s belief that Obama is a secret mouthpiece for Islamic terrorists or by his anti-Semitic jokes, perhaps more disturbing is the fact—clarified by a post on his Facebook page—that those things weren’t said under the presumption of privacy.
“The truth is that I was asked to do an interview with an Israeli news service and I joked with the reporter that Jews were the source of all problems worldwide, which was satirical because so many countries and people blame the Jews for everything,” Boykin wrote on his Facebook page. “The reporter laughed since he knew the intent was to reflect the silliness of this reasoning by so many anti-Semites. He responded that he knew what I meant and that he was trying to fix it.”
According to Boykin, he wasn’t caught saying something he’d later regret. He was recorded saying something he would have said whether he knew the mic was on or not.
It’s probably necessary to give some background on Boykin, the Israeli news outlet that requested the interview, and the event where this all went down—not for justification but to better understand who and what we’re dealing with here.
William “Jerry” Boykin is a retired Army Lieutenant General who served under President George W. Bush as the U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence from 2002 to 2007, during which time he was determined to have broken Pentagon rules in multiple public speeches by depicting the war on terror as a religious battle against Islamic militants akin to Christians’ fight against Satan, with a God-appointed Bush at the helm. Now he serves as Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group which the liberal SPLC has labeled a hate group since 2010 for spreading false anti-LGBT propaganda.
Boykin’s anti-Muslim reputation has continued to blossom over the years, as he’s said things like “Islam should not be protected by the First Amendment.” But his vitriol isn’t limited to Muslims. He’s also made some questionable comments about Jews, deriding pastors who are “destroying the efforts…to lead Jews to Christ,” and complaining that not enough American Jews identify with the Republican party because they associate “the extreme right” with Hitler. Last year, Boykin accused President Obama of using the Affordable Care Act to establish his own personal “Brownshirt” army. If that’s not enough, last fall the retired General warned members of the WallBuilders Pro-Family Legislative Network that Jesus will be wielding an AR-15 assault rifle when he returns to Earth.
But enough about Boykin. If the above sampling doesn’t provide a better understanding of who he is, perhaps a closer look at the event where he stirred up his controversy will. Last week, the traditionally conservative members of the Republican party gathered at the National Harbor outside Washington, D.C. to bash Obamacare and hail Rand Paul at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. At the same time, at a different hotel around the corner, Breitbart News Network and EMPact America, a non-profit dedicated to preparing citizens against the disputed threat of nuclear electromagnetic pulse attack, hosted its own event featuring conservative figures presumably considered too extreme for the CPAC guest list. That event was the National Security Summit.
The conference was like a Fringe Factor reunion special with Rep. Louie Gohmert, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, and former House Speaker and past presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich, among the top-billed panelists.
Henry Schwartz, the man who approached Boykin about an interview for IsraelNationalNews.com, is also the founder of EMPact America (the event’s co-sponsor). IsraelNationalNews.com is owned by the politically and religiously conservative Israeli news organization ArutzSheva. Neither Schwartz nor a spokesperson for ArutzSheva responded to request for comment on Boykin’s joke by print time, but in a video interview posted on IsraelNationalNews.com following the event, Schwartz gave his impression of the Summit from what looks like the inside of a private jet. He warned that Israel is under threat of nuclear attack by Iran, thanks to President Obama, who he said is “effectively an enemy,” and encouraged Israel to “prepare for armageddon” and find new alliances outside the U.S.
“America is not going to be here to take care of Israel; it can’t take care of itself,” he said. Schwartz seemed relatively riled up, but Boykin’s comments did not appear to be among his concerns. In fact, he praised the conference's panelists as the just the “types of patriots” he thinks America needs.