April 26th, 2010
02:12 PM ET
4 years ago

Jones apologizes for joke

 National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones apologized Monday for a joke he made that drew criticism.
National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones apologized Monday for a joke he made that drew criticism.

Washington (CNN) - National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones (Ret.) apologized Monday for a two-minute joke he told before a pro-Israel think tank last week.

"I wish that I had not made this off the cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it," Jones said in a statement. "It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct."

The joke, which Jones told in front of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, involved a Taliban fighter who was lost in the desert in Afghanistan and stumbled upon a small store owned by a "Jewish merchant."

"And the Taliban warrior went up to him and said 'I need water, give me some water,'" Jones said. "And the merchant said 'I'm sorry I don't have any water, but would you like to buy a tie, we have a nice sale of ties today.'"

At this point, Jones said, the Taliban fighter launched into "a stream of language that I can't repeat about Israel, about Jewish people, about the man himself, about his family, he was just saying 'I need water, you try to sell me ties, you people don't get it.'"

"Well I'm sorry that I don't have water for you, and I forgive you for all of the insults that you've levied against me, my family, my country," Jones describe the merchant as saying. "But I will help you out. If you go over that hill and walk about two miles there's a restaurant there and they have all the water you'll need," the merchant replied.

Jones said the fighter walked away but returned an hour later and said: "Your brother tells me I need a tie to get in the restaurant."

The audience burst into laughter; some applauded.

But Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League was unimpressed.

"It's inappropriate, it's stereotypic, it engages in the worst types of stereotypes about Jews," Foxman told CNN.

"Some people shouldn't tell jokes, especially generals," he added.

Foxman said he accepts Jones' apology.

–CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry contributed to this report


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soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It is a classic joke. You can put what ever group in place of the merchant and the one wanting the water. I think that it is funny.

    April 26, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. John

    Here we go again with the loose cannons in the White House. The democrats are such a disgrace, they’re not even worthy of holding public office.

    April 26, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  3. Ken in NC

    I thought it was funny.

    April 26, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  4. johnnyhouse

    No one accepts an apology but they do learn to live with the hurt.

    April 26, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  5. Robert

    Open remarks to General Jones:

    Dear General Jones,

    I am an Anglican Catholic by Baptism and Confirmation. In the US, that is known as the old high Episcopal Church. I have worked for companies owned and largely managed by Jews for most of my life. I have never had an issue with working for them. I have always been treated very well as an employee, and I have served them to the very best of my ability, as I would any employer. They have held me in the same esteem I hold them.

    It's been my experience that Jews are well-educated, bright and they make great entreprenerial businessmen and women. And, their savvy increases with experience as it does for everyone who is focused and strongly motivated.

    I know a lot of these people well enough to say that they are not quite as up-tight about that joke as some of your critics might suggest. They take those good-natured jokes the way your audience did. Indeed, that joke points out their greatest asset; doesn't it. No fair-mained person of the Jewish faith would take offense at that joke; a Jewish tie merchant (along with his brother) convinced a Taliban character to buy a tie! That's the way these jokes in their various narratives go.

    So, don't take the critism of the politically-correct folks too seriously. Nevertheless, I would find another line of jokes for the future.

    Best regards,

    Bob M.

    April 26, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. J.T.

    This was a pretty funny joke. I don't see the insult.

    April 26, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. jeff jackson, alabama

    What a totally ridiculous reaction to a clean
    funny joke. Good grief, some people need
    to enjoy life more and be less negative. How
    in the world is that steriotypic. He could have
    used the same joke no matter who he was
    talking too. The shop keeper could have been
    a farmer's son, a doctor's wife, who ever.
    Foxman needs to get out of the house more.
    Go to a movie, have a drink, take in a ball
    game, Foxman.

    April 26, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. Rog

    You know some people need to lighten up & not get all up in a tizzy over ecvery little thing. It was a joke. Was it out of line? More than likely but it was a joke. GeeWhiz.

    April 26, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. Givemeabreak!!!

    What is wrong with these high profile people?? Do they NOT read their speeches before hand??? How many have said "something" recently that they "regretted" and apologized for later?? Don't they know that once words are spoken, they cannot be rescinded, the harm is done?? Good grief!!! Give me a break !!!! I am tired of hearing "I should not have said that, I am sorry if I offended anyone". Think before speaking, people.

    April 26, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. Rick

    I'm Jewish. Thanks for the laugh. Foxman should lighten up.

    April 26, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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