Fake News Roundup // Read all about Russia, the Agudah and Biden!

I’ve often thought that there should be a regular feature somewhere called “Fake News Roundup,” offering the most egregiously misleading news stories or public claims from the previous week.

Were there such a column, last week’s could have presented things like Russia’s demolition of a Ukrainian dormitory and its many inhabitants, Agudath Israel of America’s coddling of anti-yeshivah stalwarts, and President Biden’s comparison of southern border migrants to Holocaust victims.

On January 8, Russian media presented as fact the nation’s Defense Ministry’s claim to have “killed 600 people” in a military dormitory in Kramatorsk, a triumphant revenge for an earlier deadly Ukrainian attack on a facility housing Russian soldiers.

Journalists from an assortment of media immediately visited the site and saw damaged buildings but no evidence of any carnage, ambulances or rescue teams. The Russian claim was a hopeful hoax, playing to an increasingly unenthusiastic home audience.

On the 11th, an anonymous robocall went out to Jews in Brooklyn and Lakewood featuring the voice of a young man who claimed that the Agudah’s Yeshiva Summit the following day would be prominently featuring “supporters of YAFFED!” (the anti-yeshivah group) and even the architect of the new state regulations “gezeirah” itself!

The assertions were as baseless as Russia’s. 

The Agudah’s Yeshiva Summit is an annual event dedicated to helping mosad administrators learn best practices for operating their yeshivos, focusing on things like recordkeeping, safety and security, parsonage allowances and other such areas.

The speakers whom the robocaller accused of being in league with enemies of yeshivos have all, in fact, been allies in the fight against the new state regulations. And the lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging those regulations, by the Agudah and others, proceeds apace.

And then there was the latest assault on Mr. Biden.

Fox News’ headline provocatively read: “Biden compares asylum-seeking migrants to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.” A popular columnist asked: “Where’s the outrage over Biden comparing illegal immigrants to Holocaust victims?”

Well, there was outrage. Whether it was warranted is another matter.

What happened: On January 8, Mr. Biden, visiting the Mexico-Texas border, made a speech, in which, inter alia, he decried the insufficient number of immigration judges to adjudicate the claims of immigrants; he announced that Mexico had agreed to cooperate in preventing unlawful border crossers; and he stressed that applicants to a new refugee program need to have a lawful sponsor in the US and to undergo a rigorous background check.

A reporter asked: “Mr. President, do you believe that migration is a human right?”

His reply: “Well, I think it is a human right if… your family is being persecuted… It was a human right for, you know, Jews in Germany to be able to… escape and get help where they could.”

And then he reiterated that Americans, too, have a right to know that “the people who are coming have been checked out” that “they’re not criminals.”

There are undesirables and worse who make it into our country, one way or another. But innocent families comprise the vast majority of asylum seekers, people who were forced to flee their homes due to gang-related murders, kidnappings, extortion and other abuses they were facing.

Those men, women and children abandon their birthplaces despite the uncertainty of where, even whether, they might find refuge, despite all the deprivations and exposure to the harsh elements (natural and human) they will face on their long treks. Despite the risk of failure. And the risk of dying in the effort, as some have.

Were the president’s words out of line, outrageous, even “STUNNING”? Were the headlines that focused on them, rather than the rest of the speech, fair? 

The Gemara famously says that, when the footsteps of Moshiach are drawing near, chutzpah will increase and there will be a dearth of truth in the world.

So the geulah, it would seem, is near.

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