The newly hired and newly fired historian of the House said Tuesday that allegations she is anti-Semitic are “slanderous and outrageous” but that she would not contest them or comment further now.
Christina Jeffrey accepted her abrupt dismissal by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) only a week after he had appointed her to the $85,000-a-year position. But in a brief but bitter written statement, she complained of being “fired in the press” and of unfair criticism.
“The charges against me are slanderous and outrageous,” Jeffrey’s statement said. She added that she would have “nothing (more) to say at this time” but would answer her critics later by writing “a review of this matter for publication.”
Gingrich moved swiftly to terminate the conservative academic after Democratic lawmakers disclosed that, as an Education Department consultant nine years ago, she had recommended denial of federal funding for an educational program on the Holocaust because it did not contain “the Nazi point of view.”
Jeffrey also criticized the values-oriented history program, created for a junior high school course titled “The Holocaust and Human Behavior,” for failing to include the views of the Ku Klux Klan.
“The program gives no evidence of balance or objectivity,” Jeffrey wrote in December, 1986, when she was serving as a consultant to the Education Department under the Ronald Reagan Administration. “The Nazi point of view, however unpopular, is still a point of view and it is not presented; nor is that of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Gingrich demanded Jeffrey’s resignation after reviewing her comments. A spokesman said that the Speaker had not known of them, even though they became the focus of a 1988 congressional hearing and were widely reported at the time.
GOP sources said Jeffrey initially resisted Gingrich’s request, arguing that what she had written had been “misinterpreted” and that, once explained, would no longer be controversial.
“But Newt explained to her that her statement was inadmissible on its face . . . and that the historian of the House could never be someone who had uttered those words,” said Gingrich spokesman Tony Blankley.
That seemed unlikely to end the controversy, however, with Democrats criticizing Gingrich’s appointment of Jeffrey and expressing skepticism that the Speaker would not have known about the 1988 controversy in view of his close professional relationship with the conservative political scientist. The two taught together at Kennesaw State College in Marietta, Ga., before Gingrich became a congressman.
Blankley characterized Jeffrey’s reference to the “Nazi point of view” as a “flip comment” that was meant only to point out that “you couldn’t have balance” in teaching a subject as emotional as the Holocaust.
However, a copy of her 1986 critique circulated Tuesday by Democrats contained a number of controversial references to the teaching of the history of the Holocaust, the systematic effort by Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jews of Europe in gas chambers and concentration camps where 6 million of them perished during World War II.
Writing under her maiden name, Christina Price, Jeffrey indicated that what the course taught about the Holocaust was not history but propaganda.
“It is paradoxical and strange,” Jeffrey wrote, that the course sought to “change the thinking of students in the same (way) that Hitler and Goebbels used to propagandize the German people. This re-education method was perfected by Chairman Mao (Tse-tung in China) and is now being foisted on American children under the guise of ‘understanding history.’ ”
At another point, she suggested that the program’s objectivity was suspect because it concentrated on the Holocaust and did not include lessons on the then-Soviet Union’s bloody intervention in Afghanistan or Communist Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia.
“This program . . . may be appropriate for a limited religious audience,” she wrote, “but not for widespread distribution to the schools of the nation.”
As a result of her recommendation, the course was denied federal funding but it continued to be taught to eighth- and ninth-graders without government support.