Thursday, December 2, 2010

Update: The Curious Case of Nancy Pincus and Larry Stempler of the NJDC and the Deafening Silence of Beth Mason

Update 12/2/2010: As I have stated previously, I had reached out to the NJDC on Thursday November 18 and did get a response on Friday November 19 from a woman responsible for the NY area of the NJDC on the piece on their website that their organization did condemning the graphic done by Nancy Pincus on her website

The woman identified the person handling the issue as none other than Larry Stempler who is on the NJDC Board as well as being a previous donor to Beth Mason's political campaigns in the past. She told me on Friday that Larry would get back to me as soon as he could and after following up on Monday November 22, 2010 I did receive a phone call from Larry Stempler himself in the afternoon. This update addresses the substance of that conversation that was mostly on the record. I did not get some of the key answers I was looking for but was able to get the following from Larry....

Larry Stempler of the NJDC
Larry first and foremost expressed interest in moving on from this issue. He felt that his organization rightfully condemned the acts of Mrs. Pincus with respect to use of Nazi imagery in making political points. He did acknowledge that his organization normally goes after right-wing targets for similar issues but he thought it would be hypocritical of his organization not condemn someone on the left side of the political fence as well for those types of communications. He was also satisfied with the apology of Nancy Pincus, considered the matter closed, and reiterated that he was looking forward to moving on from this issue.

When asked about the process of how this came to his attention or the attention of the NJDC, Mr. Stempler declined to comment. He then stated  " I can see where this is going and yes I am an colleague of Beth Mason's".  He also added that he "doesn't read the blogs" so then one could logically conclude that Larry did not himself  actually discover Nancy's piece but rather it was forwarded to his attention via his organization or some outside entity.

I pressed further and reminded him that the NJDC article contained a link to Hoboken 411, which has its own share of hateful speech against individuals and various types of people. He answered saying he is not familiar with that website. So the questions still remain about how does the NJDC go about the editorial process when condemning the acts of various people, and how did Nancy's piece get forwarded to this organization, and by whom? The only thing conclusive I was able to get from this interview is that the answers are not going to come from Larry Stempler and that his organization wants to move on from this issue.

In concluding the phone interview with Larry Stempler I wanted to make a point that when his organization condemns an individual's actions what they deem as inappropriate acts it can be harmful to that person if the full context of their piece is not revealed. I also added that there was a recent incident in Hoboken where a bullet next to a sign blaming the Jews for 9/11 was placed in Pier A Park and that the way this piece was being used locally for political purposes could undermine his organization's overall message. He stated he was not aware of the incident but disagreed with my assessment. He did acknowledge that the blog post on the NJDC website had generated local interest and attention to his organization. He concluded this line of the conversation near the end of it by quoting Tip O'Niel, "All politics is local".

The interview wound down from there.

Also, in a brief phone conversation with Mike Novak two weeks ago, I was able to corroborate Nancy's story that Mike Novak did reach out to her to warn her that people were upset with her graphic before the NJDC piece was published. Mike Novak did not mention who was offended. Also worth noting is the fact that to this date, and to the best of my knowledge, Beth Mason has made no statement to the public about this even though a local website confirmed Beth had reached out to the NJ ADL to "shop out" this story.

This quote from the Jersey Journal (  Hoboken Now) article confirms that Beth Mason shopped the story (at least to the ADL):

"Following a conversation with Etzion Neuer, regional director for the New Jersey Anti-Defamation League, Pincus said later that she realized how her graphic may have caused offense and agreed to issue a letter of apology at Neuer's request.

"I welcomed and accepted Ms. Pincus' apology and from our conversation, it appears she understands why the incident was hurtful," said Neuer.

Neuer said he first heard about the graphic through Mason who pointed out it out to him last week before Bajardi's presentation before the council."

Link to full piece:

Final Comment: Beth Mason's silence on this issue is deafening. Of course, there is always the ever bloviating Lane Bajardi to do her dirty work.

Original Post 11/19/2010 : Below is a letter from Nancy Pincus to the National Jewish Democratic Council regarding her graphic depicting Beth Mason and Timothy Occhipinti in a parody of a German poster Triumph of The Will (1934). Although her graphic was meant to be a play on words the NJDC thought differently and posted this article on their national website:

Here is Nancy Pincus' response to the NJDC:
Board of Directors
National Jewish Democratic Council

Dear Board Members:

I am writing in response to a posting on your organization’s website, written by Larry Streeter, which personally condemned me for a graphic that I used on my personal blog, The graphic was intended as a satirical statement relating to the ascension or “triumph” of a political candidate over low expectations a in a Hoboken political race. I am Jewish and lost close family in the Holocaust. I certainly did not mean to offend or impugn anybody on the basis of their Jewish faith. To the extent my work caused genuine offense to any individual, I offer my sincere apologies. In the future, I will certainly give stronger consideration to whether my work may unintentionally offend people of good will.

I can only observe, however, that much if not all of the outrage over my graphic has come from individuals with obvious political agendas. The use of false accusations of anti-Semitism for political ends is abhorrent, because it diminishes our credibility when we speak out against the real anti-Semitism that sadly still exists. Unfortunately, Hoboken has suffered from several incidents in the past year where anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in town. Adding politically motivated accusations of anti-Semitism can only fan those flames.
It must be noted that Larry Stempler, a member of your board, has contributed $1,500 to the Hoboken political campaigns of Elizabeth Mason, despite not being a Hoboken resident. The graphic in question was a political criticism of Mrs. Mason and her political faction, who recently engaged in a municipal election where significant allegations of voter fraud have been made. A criminal referral has been made by the local Board of Elections to the prosecutor’s office regarding the election. Two of the past three mayors of Hoboken have been sent to federal prison for corruption, which included the sale of zoning variances. I sit on the Hoboken Zoning Board, and Ms. Mason is part of group that generally is supportive of the practices of the two former mayors that were sent to prison. I am decidedly not part of that group and have used my personal blog site to express my outrage at political corruption and voter fraud. Because of voiced opinions opposing corruption, I have been targeted by Ms. Mason and her associates for removal from the Zoning Board. This is the context in which your organization was approached and pitched a story about the allegedly fascist Nancy Pincus.

Mr. Stempler’s relationship to Mrs. Mason raises serious questions as to the objectivity of your organization’s decision to get involved and to condemn me, personally, without ever talking to me or having tried to contact me. At a minimum, Mr. Stemplar’s relationship to Mrs. Mason should have been clearly disclosed, together with whatever role Mr. or Mrs. Mason has played in the process of making that decision. If Mrs. Mason or her family are contributors to your organization, such relationship raises serious issues about the availability, for a price, of personal condemnations for political purposes issued by your organization.

I respectfully request that you take all appropriate action to address these serious issues, including, at a minimum immediately prominently posting this letter, in its entirety, on your website. I would also welcome the opportunity to meet with any person or persons from your organization to discuss the graphic which resulted in my personal condemnation and the manner and process in which you personally condemn members of the Jewish community.

Very truly yours,
Nancy Pincus followed up with a story that has this from Etzion Neuer from the NJ Anti-Defamation League:

Following a conversation with Etzion Neuer, regional director for the New Jersey Anti-Defamation League, Pincus said later that she realized how her graphic may have caused offense and agreed to issue a letter of apology at Neuer's request.

"I welcomed and accepted Ms. Pincus' apology and from our conversation, it appears she understands why the incident was hurtful," said Neuer.

Neuer said he first heard about the graphic through Mason who pointed out it out to him last week before Bajardi's presentation before the council.

"I am genuinely sorry," Pincus said this afternoon. "I did not mean to hurt anyone who's genuine. I'm not talking about the political operatives."

Link to complete article:

My Comment: I know Nancy Pincus personally and I can vouch for the fact that I do believe her account in that the graphic was meant as a play on words and not as an anti-Semitic attack on Beth Mason. After all Nancy Pincus is Jewish, tolerant and pretty liberal to boot. With that said her choice in graphic was not politically savvy to say the least and is being used to attack the reform movement. At this point I'm not going to take a stand on the validity of her allegations on Mr. Stempler.  There will be more on this story later as a representative of NJDC promised me that someone would get back to me after I reached out to the NJDC personally yesterday. I appreciate the fact that they have acknowledged my inquiry and look forward to the discussion. ◦