I’ve been reading all the reports and comments relating to the Trump-Turx incident today at the White House. All the media outlets have some coverage of the incident. The liberal media, of course, is using Trump’s reaction as a reason to bash him. No surprise there. This was tailor-made for them. One writer in the frum media jumped on board and responded to a critical statement by Matzav and sought to defend Turx.
I’d like to offer a short point by point explanation of why Turx erred today. Not only did he err, but he erred egregiously, and there’s no excuse for his mistake. Many of my sentiments happened to have already been mentioned in a statement earlier on Matzav.
Before I go further, I’d like to make clear that I wish this frum reporter all the success in the world. I don’t know him, but he seems like a fine fellow. May he be matzliach. However, when you place yourself in that position, you’d better be ready to be scrutinized. And if you can’t take the heat, then you’d better get out of the White House press room.
Here’s my take:
1) Turx, take off that silly yarmulka. It’s an embarrassment. Put on a regular yarmulka. It isn’t Purim and the White House isn’t the yeshiva coffee room. President Trump is not an actor in a Purim play, so you should not act like he is. The yarmulka is immature, embarrassing, and uncalled for. Pull yourself together and look like a mentch when representing the frum world in the White House. Sorry for being sharf, but it must be said.
2) When asking a question to the president, the focus is not on you, but on the president. The questioner is not to draw attention to himself. The questioner is not an actor on stage or a performer on TV.
3) It is questionable whether the topic of the question was appropriate altogether today. It had nothing to do with anything being discussed. I spoke to several askanim who said that that topic can be reserved for meetings with the president and his brass. There was no imperative for it to be brought up at the press conference.
4) Assuming that the topic was okay, if I or others in the frum media had an opportunity to pose a question to the president, we would carefully study what we want to say and condense it into one or two sentences. Today, Turx was all over the place. Let’s break down his comments:
a) “Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or any of, anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic.”
b) “We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zaidy.”
c) “However, what we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it… There has been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to…”
The “question” was so poorly formulated and presented. The initial comment about his “colleagues” was misplaced. You don’t comment on your colleagues in such a venue. The president can decide to comment on the media. You can’t.
The next remark about Trump having Jewish grandchildren and him being a zaidy was childish, silly, and, yes, even embarrassing in the context in which it was said. It was almost like everyone realized that it was said only so that this “Chassidic” reporter can use the word “zaidy” in the White House press room. Embarrassing.
Next, to the question itself: Even if we assume that the claims of there being an uptick are not merely a product of the liberal media and groups like the ADL, who see anti-Semitism in everything, the question itself was a discombobulated jumble. It took three sentences and almost 70 words to convey the point, and Turx was still going. He would have continued talking had Trump not cut him off, going on and on as he tried to explain his question. This was not a campaign speech or a bar mitzvah p’shetel. It was supposed to be a brief question to the president.
I am not nitpicking here. This isn’t child’s play. This is important. These aren’t minutiae.
If I or others in the frum media had an opportunity to pose the president a question, assuming that we wished to ask him about this particular topic, we would have labored to come up with a formula that was short, respectful and to the point. And if we weren’t sure that we could remember the exact text, there’s nothing wrong with reading it off of a paper so that you don’t make a fool out of yourself.
One possible text could have been:
“Mr. President, we know that you are a staunch supporter of the Jewish community and have always been. Thank you for that. There are reports of an increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the country. What can the government do to address these concerns?”
Under 45 words. Short. To the point. Respectful.
Much better than rambling on about colleagues’ misreporting, Jewish grandchildren, a zaidy president, people committing, people threatening, and on and on…
And yes, maybe the reporter should have taken into account the president’s temperament. Trump is quick. He doesn’t have time for nonsense. He won’t let you babble.
It’s amazing how far a little seichel and foresight can go….
I hope you’ll forgive the bluntness and critical nature of these observations. This is not meant to be personal. It is meant to offer constructive criticism and ensure that this never happens again.
Remember: seichel and foresight.
A member of the frum media