Rick’s Letter to Abe Foxman of the ADL
After their meeting several weeks ago, Rick sent the following letter to Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, and once again apologized for his comments last September.
I would like to sincerely thank you and Ken Jacobson for meeting with me last week.
We spent a great deal of time talking about the power and importance of words. In my work as a broadcaster, I know and appreciate that power. Yet, one day several months ago, in my life outside the newsroom, I forgot how powerful and meaningful words can be.
During our meeting, not only did you show me how wrong those words were, but you explained to me why they were wrong, and you reminded me that words can echo long after they are spoken. You are right: it doesn’t matter what I meant or intended to say. What matters is that I conveyed a message that I never should have.
My words were just plain wrong—wrong because they do not reflect what I believe, wrong because they do not reflect what is in my heart, and wrong because they conjure up some of the worst and most dangerous stereotypes of Jews, stereotypes that have been the cause of horrific atrocities committed against the Jewish people.
Ironically, there are no words strong enough for me to express my regret and sorrow over what I said. It was offensive, and I deeply, sincerely and unequivocally apologize for the hurt that I have caused.
I tell my children that when they make a mistake, they should take responsibility, atone and work to repair whatever they have done. For the past several months, I have followed that same advice and tried to be an example for them. I cannot take back what I said. I cannot undo the offense or controversy I caused; all I can do is to try and learn from this experience and strive to become a better person.
Stereotypes against any minority or ethnic group—including Jews, Hispanics, African-Americans, Irish, Italians—are inexcusable but, unfortunately, as you know, all too common. Eradicating them should be a goal shared by all. My meeting with you has made me renew my commitment to do so.
Abe, it is very important for me that you know who I am, and that you look at my entire life and not judge me by one incident. I am a minority, a victim of discrimination myself. I grew up poor, the son of Cuban immigrants who spoke no English, the son of a man who shined shoes and washed dishes and a woman who sewed leather boots in a factory. Throughout my life and career, I have fought against discrimination in all its forms and have exposed and fought anti-Semitism in particular. From my days in Miami when I worked with your former ADL colleague Art Teitelbaum on combating prejudice, to my work as a journalist uncovering and confronting ugliness in our society, I believe my work and background demonstrate my character and my life’s commitment to fight bigotry.
You have instilled in me a newfound understanding of the suffering that the Jewish people have endured throughout their history and made me realize the long and difficult path that Jews have had to forge. The Jewish experience needs to be taught, remembered and revered—not just as a memorial to Jewish suffering, but as a tribute to Jewish survival. There are important lessons here which need to be taught to people who believe that they cannot overcome the hardships they face, and it is a lesson, as well, for those who believe that only through oppression of others can they elevate themselves.
As I move forward, I hope that we can do so together. It is my greatest hope that I can contribute to the cause of bringing greater awareness of anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its forms and help combat it, and that you and I can join forces to cultivate stronger relationships between the Jewish and Hispanic communities. And just as the work you do has created an awareness and an urgency to the cause of fighting bigotry, I hope that one day, Hispanics do not face the discrimination we do today. I hope that we will, like other immigrant groups, thrive and overcome our adversities, and that my children and their children won’t face the challenges that I have.
I am glad we met. I welcome your friendship and guidance, and offer blessings and prayers for a better future and great achievements to come.