Voted to condemn Khalil Abdul Muhammad's...

THE SENATE

February 10, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

THE SENATE voted to condemn Khalil Abdul Muhammad's notorious anti-white, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic remarks, and the press piled on.

But the Senate said nothing about Sen. Ernest Hollings' anti-black remarks of last December. Nor did the press. Some say this shows a double standard. Probably. So what else is new?

Senator Hollings, known to one and all as "Fritz," is a South Carolina Democrat. What he said in December (in connection with a trade meeting in Geneva) was: "Everybody likes to go to Geneva. I used to do it for the Law of the Sea conferences, and you'd find these potentates from down in Africa, you know, rather than eating each other they'd just come up and get a good square meal in Geneva."

He now says he is the wronged party because people are comparing his "joke" to Muhammad's incitement to murder. Well, they definitely are not in the same category, but Fritz's self-defense is ingenuous. It's as if you beat someone up and robbed him, then complained when you were sent to the same prison as a murderer. Actually Fritz's defense is even worse than ingenuous. He said, "if anyone took it as an insult," he apologized. If?

What follows isn't a defense of Hollings or of Hollingspeak, as they call it in S.C., just a reminder that he's insulted lots of people and groups before. He's not singling blacks out. He's not that kind of racist. (Some Readers may recall I once proposed Senator Hollings for the Democratic vice presidential nomination and conclude that I am defending him now as a longtime fan. Not so. I've never been his fan. I only nominated him in 1984 because the presidential nominee was Walter "Fritz" Mondale, and I thought a bumper sticker that said "Fritz and Fritz" or "Fritzes" would be neat.)

Hollings' vicious tongue is well known to his colleagues. He called former Sen. John Tower, who drank, "Mr. Alcohol Abuser." called Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, who is Jewish, "the senator from B'nai B'rith." A journalist said of Hollings, "He tends toward bombast; some wonder whether his mind and his mouth simply move too quickly for discretion to keep pace, or whether he just does not care that his judgments fall harshly."

His insensitivity to a whole race or nation has also been evident before. When a Japanese official said American workers were lazy and illiterate, Hollings suggested to South Carolina workers that they make up a poster with "a mushroom cloud and put under it 'Made in America by lazy and illiterate Americans and tested in Japan.' "

So that's the kind of guy he is. Two more points, just for the record. (1) South Carolina's biggest newspaper, the Columbia State, chastised Fritz's potentates remark immediately after he made it and again yesterday. (2) Black voters put Fritz in the Senate in 1966 and kept him there in 1992, his only two close elections. I'll bet they don't do it again.

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