Did Obama Pick the Wrong Playmates?

Barack Obama is heading to Greenwich this weekend to raise money from well-known hedge-funders (i.e. Paul Tudor Jones), but a minimum $1,000-a-head reception at the home of retired Knick Allan Houston on Saturday is drawing heavy criticism from some Jewish anti-discrimination groups.

"It's very unfortunate," says David Twersky, communications director at the American Jewish Congress. "It looks like Obama is doing pretty well. He doesn't need Allan Houston's money."

Back in 2001, Houston and fellow Knick guard and so-called "God squad" mate Charlie Ward were jeered by fans after making statements Jewish groups deemed anti-Semitic. Though Ward was the most criticized (he said Jews had Jesus's "blood on their hands" and were "stubborn" during a pre-game Bible study), Houston supported Ward's notion that Jews were responsible for Christ's death by whipping out his Palm Pilot to find the relevant scripture (Matthew 26:67) and said: "Then they spit in Jesus' face and hit him with their fists."

(At the time both Knicks apologized and said their quotes were taken out of context. "I want to embrace any group of people," Houston said. The ADL went soft on Ward and said he didn't "understand the impact of his comments.")

But groups like the American Jewish Congress, for instance, call supporting the idea that Christ was killed by Jews "very dangerous" and believe Obama should not accept financial support from Houston. "I don't think Barack Obama would make comments like that about Jews," Twersky says. "If someone made those kinds of remarks against African-Americans, he would eschew their support. It would be a different standard."

Jen Psaki, an Obama spokeswoman, says the campaign has no plans to return or reject any of Houston's contributions. In a written statement, she said: "Barack Obama has been a consistent supporter of Israel and though Mr. Houston apologized for his comments soon after they were made, Obama disagrees with the language he used and the inaccurate and inappropriate religious references." —Geoffrey Gray

An Evening With Senator Barack Obama [PDF]