Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) — The U.S. Secret Service is looking into a controversial column by an Atlanta Jewish newspaper publisher that mulled the assassination of an American president.
Andrew Adler, owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, wrote a January 13 column about the threat of Iran to Israel. He posed three options for the Jewish state to counter the Iranian regime.
One of them called for a “hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence.”
“Give the go-ahead for U.S. based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”
U.S. Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie told CNN Saturday, “We are aware of it. We are taking the appropriate investigative steps.”
Adler could not be reached for comment, but the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a wire service for Jewish newspapers in North America, quoted Adler on Friday as saying “I very much regret it. I wish I hadn’t made reference to it at all.”
Adler — who said he’s gotten a lot of flak for the column — said he would issue an apology in the next edition of the weekly newspaper, the JTA reported.
The column, entitled “What would you do?” doesn’t mention President Barack Obama’s name, but U.S. Jewish groups that strongly denounced the column read the words as a reference to Obama himself. The column also refers to the administration’s “never ending ‘Alice in Wonderland’ belief that diplomacy is the answer,” an apparent dig at the Obama White House’s foreign policy efforts at dialogue with such countries as Iran.
“The suggestion by anyone, in this case a Jewish newspaper publisher, that Israel should consider assassinating President Obama is shocking beyond belief,” said Dov Wilker, director of the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta.
“While we acknowledge Mr. Adler’s apology, we are flabbergasted that he could ever say such a thing in the first place. How could he even conceive of such a twisted idea?” said Wilker. “Mr. Adler surely owes immediate apologies to President Obama, as well as to the State of Israel and his readership, the Atlanta Jewish community.”
The White House declined to comment Saturday on the column.
Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Adler’s “lack of judgment as a publisher, editor and columnist raises serious questions as to whether he’s fit to run a newspaper.”
“There is absolutely no excuse, no justification, no rationalization for this kind of rhetoric. It doesn’t even belong in fiction. These are irresponsible and extremist words. It is outrageous and beyond the pale. An apology cannot possibly repair the damage.
“Irresponsible rhetoric metastasizes into more dangerous rhetoric. The ideas expressed in Mr. Adler’s column reflect some of the extremist rhetoric that unfortunately exists — even in some segments of our community — that maliciously labels President Obama as an ‘enemy of the Jewish people,'” Foxman said.
Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper called the remarks “irresponsible and reprehensible” and said they “must be publicly condemned by Jewish leaders across the ideological and political spectrum.”
“We take small comfort from the apology — what a shanda!” Cooper said, using the Yiddish word for something shameful or scandalous.
JTA also quoted Ophir Aviran, the Israeli consul-general in Atlanta as saying he was “appalled at this deranged and morally repugnant assertion.”
The Atlanta Jewish Times, a weekly focused on the Atlanta Jewish community, was founded in 1925 as the Southern Israelite.