WASHINGTON — California Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), embroiled in his second controversial incident in three days, was accused by a fellow House member Wednesday of anti-Semitism after Dornan declared that liberal New York Democrats support only weapons for Israel, not the United States.
"It was a very anti-Semitic thing to say," charged Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is Jewish. "It's the identification of New York and Jewish that would lead him to call me a New York guy."
Dornan, insisting that he had not known that Frank is Jewish, asserted that he is a strong supporter of Israel and called Frank's accusation "obnoxious" and "tacky."
"I didn't even know he was Jewish, with his Boston accent and the plain name, Barney Frank," Dornan said. "I thought he was Italian-American. You think of people from Boston as being Irish or Italian . . . ."
Dornan's remarks about New York liberals and Israel, made in a television appearance with Frank on Cable Network News, followed a scuffle Monday between Dornan and Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D-N.Y.) on the House floor in which Downey accused Dornan of yanking his tie and threatening "bodily harm."
On the television show, Dornan said he made a "verbal mistake, not a mental mistake," in referring to Frank as a New Yorker because the two previously had been discussing Dornan's fracas with Downey.
During the show, Frank--who opposes additional funding for the MX missile--began to discuss whether some new defense systems might be necessary. However, before he could complete a sentence, Dornan interrupted, saying that Frank would support Israeli defense. "That's where we're together, on that one," Dornan said.
Frank objected, complaining that Dornan was making an ethnic slur. Dornan responded: "New York liberal Democrats only build F-15s for Israeli pilots, not for our pilots."
When Frank pointed out that he was not from New York, Dornan responded that he meant to say "East Coast," not New York.
Called Downey a 'Wimp'
Dornan later accused Frank of "doing a lot of showboating" and charged that Downey had done the same by publicly demanding an apology for Monday's scuffle.
"I just grabbed him (Downey) by the tie to keep his attention . . . ," he said. "I asked him to step outside."
During Monday's confrontation, Downey complained that Dornan had publicly called him a "draft-dodging wimp." Dornan said he then told Downey that Downey had cost him his livelihood by denouncing him from the House floor in 1983. Those remarks, Dornan contended, cost him a federal consultant's job. When Downey refused to listen, Dornan said, he grabbed him.
"He always has this sneer," Dornan said of Downey. "It may be a physical thing he can't control . . . . But that built-in sneer when he's challenging you tends to put one off. And here was this built-in sneer staring at me."
Dornan also said he has warned Downey to stay away from him.
"I told him to stay out of my face forever," he said. "I can't abide the sight of him."