Dealing With Hate

What’s up with Lee Zeldin? Once a decent young politician and Army vet making his way up through the Republican ranks, he has become an irresponsible pot-shooter for the right. 

It is impossible to peer into the congressman’s mind — and heaven knows he is not one who answers probing questions. Still, the transformation is surprising and at odds with his portrayal of himself as an aw-shucks family man gone to Washington to watch out for his hard-working constituents back home.

We are of two minds about Mr. Zeldin’s latest affronts. On one hand, when an elected official makes provoking statements, it counts as news. On the other, since it seems as if what motivates Mr. Zeldin most of all is attention, repeating his barbs is just what he wants. For example, his suggestion in 2016 that President Obama was a racist helped him secure a place on the Fox News commentators bench.  

And now, on Twitter, Mr. Zeldin has gone after Representative Ilhan Omar’s equating the Palestinian status in Israel with that of American blacks before 1963. Mr. Zeldin took this to be anti-Semitic, an opinion to which he is entitled even if it may be wrong. But then he went much further, claiming without evidence Friday on Fox’s “America’s Newsroom” that a supporter of Ms. Omar posted a voice message on an office line for him last week, among other things, wishing that Hitler would have finished exterminating the Jews in Europe, and taunting her to answer the hateful rant.

To her credit, Ms. Omar responded with poise, inviting Mr. Zeldin for a cup of Somali tea to talk about the hate calls she, too, receives, as one of the two first Muslim women in Congress. That is how a member of the House of Representatives should act. Mr. Zeldin might want to pay attention.