A two-page ad that ran in the Sacramento Bee on Easter Sunday and Good Friday set off a flurry of emails to the city’s daily newspaper about its overt anti-Semitic language.
The response resulted in a printed apology on April 14, two days after Easter.
Submitted by Robert Forest as a paid advertisement and in the form of a poem, the ad stated, in part: “The ‘religious’ folks Who Ran the show, Didn’t like Him [Jesus] Stealing their thunder (And putting the ‘sheep’ In the know), So they watched And waited Hatching Evil schemes Unabated, Looking to kill The Man Who brought God’s Love, Planning to slaughter The holy Man They hated.”
After seeing the ad on April 10, Sharyn Rich sent an email to Bee president and editor Lauren Gustus asking, “Did anyone actually read [the ad]? It is filled with anti-Semitism … This was not a Happy Easter message. It was a message filled with bigotry and hate.”
Rich, a member of Sacramento’s Jewish community, received an email response from Gustus, which she shared with J.: “The ad celebrating Easter contained anti-Semitic language which we deeply regret. The inclusion was offensive and unacceptable, a violation of our principles as a news organization and did not meet our standards as a member of your community. It offended our employees, in addition to those of you in our community … Our promise to you is to be more vigilant so you can have trust in us, a trust we never take for granted. We are sorry.”
In an email to J., Rich wrote, “I was so upset on Friday that my insides shook.”
Additionally, Rich contacted Rabbi Reuven Taff of Mosaic Law Congregation, the Conservative synagogue where she and her husband, Lloyd, are members.
In his own message to the Bee editor, Taff pointed out that a similar ad had been taken out by Forest and ran on Christmas Day four months ago.
Taff added, “There have been over these many years great strides made in interfaith relations within our community … The publication of the paid advertisement in the Bee rekindles the embers of hate and prejudice, and God knows that there remains too much enmity and bigotry in our country.”
The Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region issued a statement to the community about the ad, and Bruce Pomer, chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council, also corresponded with the Bee’s Gustus.
“We are in the midst of very perilous times,” he wrote to her. “Incidences of hate crimes against minority groups have been increasing at an alarming rate. Now more than ever we need the Bee to be the strong voice that helps to stem the tide against such dangerous conditions. We have faith that you will hear our concern and will respond in kind.”
The Bee did, in fact, issue a 10-paragraph apology at the bottom of the front page. It was headlined “An apology: Ad with anti-Semitic language is unacceptable” and signed by Gustus.
“Our goal,” it read, in part, “is always to provide meaningful and valuable news and information … to serve you and to help us all live better lives through civil communication and decency.”
In addition to outlining steps the Bee will take to ensure a more rigorous approval process, the paper wrote that it is making a donation to the Unity Center that matches the cost of the Easter ad. The 3-year-old Unity Center “celebrates the state’s diverse people, customs and cultures,” according to its website.
The Bee’s apology also stated: “When the center opened, columnist Marcos Bretón noted how easy it is for intolerance to spread, writing that it can go ‘from one-on-one micro-aggressions to full-scale campaigns of hate, with hundreds or thousands or millions of bystanders either laughing along — or looking the other way.’ We will not look the other way. Anti-Semitism in any form is unacceptable. Our promise to you is to be more vigilant so you can have trust in us, a trust we never take for granted.”