Rabbi Boteach Considering Legal Action Against UK Guardian for Comparing Him to ‘Plot Against America’ Character

March 31, 2020
Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told the Journal in a phone interview on the evening of March 30 that he is seriously considering taking legal action against the British newspaper The Guardian over an article that he thinks is libelous against him.

The March 30 article in question by Charles Bramesco delves into the HBO miniseries “The Plot Against America.” The show, which is an adaptation of the 2004 Philip Roth novel of the same name, depicts an alternate reality where avowed isolationist Charles Lindbergh defeated Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election.

“At every step of Lindberghism’s nefarious creep into the country’s culture, the anti-Semitic rhetoric gets filtered and sanitized through rationalization and doubletalk,” Bramesco wrote. “The man himself works the talking point that he’s not about condoning genocide against the Jews, but that he innocently wants to keep America out of war. His followers do the rest of the work for him; they insist that he only accepted a commendation medal from the Nazis as a foreign dignitary, that he’s friends with plenty of Jews, that he’s got a good heart, that the things he says can’t be taken at face value.”

Bramesco draws a comparison between Lindbergh’s rise in the show to President Donald Trump; he also compares the character Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, who downplays Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism to his fellow Jews, to Boteach.

“[Bengelsdorf] plays as a searing comment on the likes of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a worldwide shanda cozying up to President Trump in the presumptive belief that he’ll be exempt from the hatred now being seeded,” Bramesco wrote. “He represents a sizable Jewish component in Trump’s base, hardline conservatives convinced that he’ll have their back.”

Boteach told the Journal that Bramesco’s Guardian article was particularly galling in light of the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that “it demonstrates that they have no decency.” He added that while the Guardian has every right to editorialize about Trump, the analogy between him and Bengelsdorf crosses a line.

“What they cannot do is say that a not-unknown rabbi … who has spent his life promoting Holocaust education, Rwandan genocide awareness … a rabbi who has pioneered African American and Jewish relations, a rabbi who has pioneered in the Orthodox community LGBTQ rights and last year honored Caitlyn Jenner with our highest for everything she’s done to fight for Israel, what they cannot do is say that there’s a fascist, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic rabbi being portrayed in a fictional drama on HBO and that rabbi in real life is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach,” Boteach said. “That is pure libel.”

He also argued that such a comparison is anti-Semitic, arguing that it “goes to the core of always blaming Jews for the rise of anti-Semitism.”

Boteach said that given the state of the world and that his first priority is the safety and health of his family, he wants to focus on positivity and give The Guardian a chance to apologize in 24 hours, but he will consider legal action if it does not.

“No rabbi and Jewish leader is allowed to be maligned, slandered and character assassinated by a rogue journalist,” Boteach said.

The Guardian declined to comment on the matter. Bramesco did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment, but he did tweet out photos of Boteach with Trump and former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

“An adult man repeatedly screaming ‘HAVE YOU NO DECENCY?!’ at me through a computer surely completes some kind of dark bingo game,” Bramesco tweeted.

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