Shmuley Boteach

The political-industrial complex that is destroying America

The 2024 race seems set to replay the last presidential election, with battle lines likely to run even deeper.

Republican frontrunner and former President Donald Trump’s arrest energized the diehards in his base. Meanwhile, the abominable events of January 6th put fire in the eyes of Democrats trying to stop Trump from retaking the Oval office.

Politics seem likely to slide further toward divisiveness and incitement – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

I saw firsthand how toxic politics are manufactured and sold by an industry of political consultants who supposedly get candidates elected. Like algorithms on social networks, these consultants often push extremist content simply because it gets more attention, whatever the cost to the nation. When I spoke up publicly about the issue Trump’s number one media consultant and MAGA mogul Larry Weitzner of Jamestown Associates, based in New Jersey and Pennsylvania went to extraordinary lengths to silence me, even hiring high-priced attorneys to threaten and muzzle me.

I have never reacted well to threats, and I have never believed in cowering before a bully.

Weitzner was once revered as the man who “crafted the Trump TV message.” He’s the self-described ‘lead ad maker for the Donald J. Trump for President campaign in both 2016 and 2020,” and made the first-ever presidential campaign ad – for Trump, of course! – to air nationwide during the Super Bowl. He was seen as a political powerhouse, a master of the dark arts, a man to be feared and a consultant held in awe. But now, the truth has  come out.

For, believe it or not, Weitzner’s legal action against me alleges that I – a Rabbi with a laptop – destroyed his strategy to elect Dr. Oz to the United Senate and am ruining the name of his entire Jamestown brand. Yes, you heard it right. While media reports have it the Oz campaign spent some $100 million, a large part of it deployed by Weitzner in advertising, it was yours truly – writing in the Times of Israel and the Jewish Standard, among others, who brought Weitzner and Oz down.

Has anyone ever heard a more self-destructive allegation?

Weitzner’s reputation was already hammered by the implosion of my friend of many years, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who paid Weitzner more than a million dollars. Based on Oz’s catastrophic performance, Weitzner’s strategy, messaging, and advice were, to use British understatement, apparently unhelpful.

Eventually, the campaign would go on to include body-shaming a stroke victim for his illness, election denial, an ad with a world-renowned heart surgeon sporting an assault rifle around the same week of the Uvalde school massacre, and genocide denial.

Despite being America’s most famous physician, Oz lost to the formerly unknown mayor of a town with 8,000 people struggling with a stroke he suffered just days before the primary election. Dr Oz, who spent 18 seasons on national TV and $27 million apparently of his own money on his campaign, “should have beat [Fetterman] by three touchdowns.” As a key strategist behind the Oz for Senate campaign, Weitzner is left with a lot to explain.

It should be simple for Weitzner to admit his mistake. He tragically pushed Oz to the extreme fringes of the luny right in the primary, making the candidate into a fraud and irreversibly compromising him in the general election. Even the lawyer Weitzner’s using to sue me, George Bochetto, could himself see right through Oz. Running against Oz in the primary, Bochetto tweeted, “Dr. Oz is a Hollywood elite, not a Pennsylvania conservative.” Bochetto went on to call the Oz a phony, a fraud, and a liar. He launched StopMehmetOz.Com and decried Oz for having “lived in PA for TWO minutes,” excoriating him for “selling magic beans to little old ladies… A phony who supports government mandates and dances with Michelle Obama!” On January 12, reported, “Bochetto, a Philadelphia lawyer who has lived in the city for 45 years, suggested that his out-of-state rivals shouldn’t bother spending millions to try to convince voters they really are Pennsylvanians. ‘They should be honest about it and just flat out say, “‘Look, I haven’t lived in Pennsylvania and I’m not a citizen of Pennsylvania, but I’m coming in because there’s a provision in the Constitution that allows me to do so,’” Bochetto said in an interview. And that’s fine. But why lie to me?”

Well, counselor, those are all valid questions that perhaps you should put to your client, Larry Weitzner, Trump’s foremost media man.

But in typical juvenile political fashion, rather than accepting his licks and moving on, Weitzner would rather bully and attack a Rabbi for the misfortune these corrosive values on by the Oz campaign – claiming I damaged his reputation by criticizing the divisive partisan messaging he was selling Mehmet Oz.

As a citizen and especially as a Rabbi who promotes universal Jewish values, and as someone who took Dr. Oz to Israel to promote a joint message of Jewish-Muslim brotherhood, I knew I had the responsibility to criticize the ads and policies broadcast by the Oz the campaign.

Whenever Mehmet and I had discussed his aspirations to run for office, I told him to run a bright and unifying campaign based firmly on universal Jewish values that he loved and always praised. American politics needed healing – then one of America’s celebrated doctors, Oz seemed the perfect messenger to relay that crucial message.

But once Oz hired Larry Weitzner and his political consulting firm Jamestown, the advice of political guides and gurus quickly eclipsed mine.

Oz was gradually drawn from high ideals to the mire of partisan manipulations. Soon, Oz was brandishing assault rifles and insisting that “we can’t move on” from the 2020 election.

I sought to stop the damage being done to Mehmet shortly in the run up to the primary, telling Weitzner that Oz’s partisan stances made him “unrecognizable” to voters who knew him from TV.  Admitting to the fraudulence, Weitzner told me Oz “will be recognizable again very soon.”

When I expressed myself to Mehmet Oz, Larry intervened to gaslight me for criticizing the campaign. He told me my suggestions were “unhelpful” and “more about…ego than about Oz…I am very disappointed.”

Weitzner even advised Oz to soften his stance on Israel, quashing the idea for a press conference I was strongly pushing for Mehmet – the first ever mainstream Muslim candidate for the US Senate – to publicly support the Jewish state. Weitzner told me, “doing one now will only bring more attention to the Muslim/Turkish issue.” When I pressed on the issue, Weitzner wrote, “Israel is not the issue that primary voters are most focused on.”

He said this even while Pennsylvania has some 400,000 Jewish residents and a much larger Christian evangelical community for whom the security of the Jewish state is of pivotal importance.

Eventually, I was forbidden from voicing dissent: “U have to decide,” Weitzner wrote to me, “do u want to be the outsider and critic. Or friend and advisor. Can’t be both.”

Realizing I couldn’t compete, I watched helplessly as the values-based campaign I discussed for years with Oz gradually faded away, leaving Mehmet not only with the most embarrassing loss of the entire midterm campaign but with destroyed career on TV and media. Since the election, America’s most famous physician has all but disappeared from public view.

Dr. Oz, a good and well-meaning man, was taken for a ride by a cottage industry of cynical consultants who will do anything to win – even if it means destroying the country with manipulative and fraudulent values, manufactured candidates, and ultra-divisive policies.

As a rabbi, values commentator, and member of the media, I had every right – and as a Rabbi and values commentator, an obligation – to speak my mind and distance myself from a campaign that had become a national disgrace. That I’m now being bullied and sued for doing so contradicts the institution of freedom of the press and the First Amendment. It goes without saying, I plan to fight these bullies vigorously and will not back down.

With this contemptible and frivolous lawsuit, Weitzner is trying to stop me from telling you what political consultants like him are doing to America. It’s a David and Goliath Battle, between a New Jersey rabbi with a laptop and nine children, and one of the most powerful political consultants in America who has untold millions at his disposal. It’s classic political dark arts, the goal being to silence me.

If Weitzner is concerned about his reputation, he shouldn’t be suing me for having ruined it. If a cleric with an iPhone can bring down his operation, wouldn’t Trump be wise to find somebody else to work with?

Instead of trying to silence and blackmail critics like me, Weitzner and all the other members of the political-industrial complex, the masters of the political dark arts, need to adapt to the fact that Americans now see right through these tricks, which is why Trump’s candidates were largely pummeled at the polls in the midterms. They need to alter their strategies and embrace unifying and inspiring political messages that candidates from both parties should be running on in a blessed country that is desperately in need of healing and unity.

About the Author
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. He is the author of Judaism for Everyone and 30 other books, including his most recent, Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.
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