I Do Not Hate Israel. Vitamin Angels Is All About Mothers and Children.
Happy Mother’s Day!
I thought my post from last week would calm things down, at least for a little while, but it seems there are still folks out there in the anonymous world of the Internet with some very angry keyboards. This hostility seems to define the new “normal” on the Internet. There appears to be little concern for the truth and even less respect or concern for the feelings of others. What ever happened to human characteristics, such as compassion, empathy, consideration, respect, honesty and kindness, let alone love for one’s fellow man? I had always found the HSN Bulletin Boards to be a peaceful place where folks could ask questions, exchange ideas and share experiences. The dialog was friendly, cordial and respectful, but recently, like our society, there seems to be more and more anger and hurtful content. Sadly, some recent posts on HSN’s Bulletin Boards have forced me to respond. I know you have told me that I should just ignore these angry posts, the same as we teach our kids that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” However, I guess I am not sufficiently spiritually evolved to just turn the other cheek. That is something I can always aspire to. Also, this instance is different, since this is not just an attack on me, but on a very dear friend. It was an unjustified, unprovoked and completely false attack on the reputation of one our country’s finest charities and its unselfish Founder. It is so sad when the Internet gives rise to such attacks, but even worse when it is against someone who is a committed humanitarian and his remarkable charitable organization.
Before I respond more fully to the above, I first wanted to say I was humbled by the outpouring of support following my most recent blog post. Thank you. I initially hesitated to write that post, because the world has already become far too political. Then I realized that I was not defending any political views, but simply the truth. I suppose after almost 30 years on TV, I have grown some thick skin, but it still breaks my heart to read this recent attack against Vitamin Angels and its Founder, a gentleman who has always conducted himself and his charity with the utmost honesty, dignity and transparency. Vitamin Angels’ Founder, Howard Schiffer, is truly a humanitarian and one of the kindest human beings you could ever hope to meet. He has dedicated his life to bringing children’s vitamins and now prenatal vitamins to the furthest reaches of our planet. He goes wherever children and mothers need his help – regardless of politics. In fact, when I spoke to him this morning, he was in a small village in Honduras where families must survive on a bit more than $1 per day. These are the kinds of remote places that Howard goes to save children and their mothers. To call his charity “Vitamin Devils” is outrageous and hurtful. What could possibly possess someone to say such things and fabricate such stories? To say that Howard Schiffer, Vitamin Angels and I are involved in some left-wing conspiracy to destroy Israel is beyond unimaginable. These lies would be troubling if they were not so absurd. What would inspire someone to invent such nonsense?! It is also troubling to see the speed with which others will jump on the bandwagon and happily attack me. Making all of this worse is the fact that everything lives forever on the Internet – even the worst lies, so I am forced to respond not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of Howard Schiffer and Vitamin Angels.
Politics has absolutely nothing to do with my company or my vitamins. I truly love our country, but, as I have said for many years, I have grown weary of modern day partisan politics. Just as with my company, Howard makes certain that politics has absolutely nothing to do with the incredible work of Vitamin Angels. Howard has often said that mothers and their children should never be the innocent victims of politics. Howard and Vitamin Angels focus on the Mothers and Children he has dedicated his life to saving. Howard and I could not imagine what could inspire someone to post these lies on HSN’s Bulletin Boards about our alleged desire to harm or destroy Israel. It is hard to believe that someone actually consciously typed that. That is crazy! Have we become so angry and cynical as a society that we blindly accuse others of terrible things? It is true that Israel is not on the list of countries that Vitamin Angels presently serves and that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are on the list (referred to as the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”). Perhaps for some folks the phrase “Occupied Palestinian Territories” is politically charged, but Vitamin Angels was only using the standard nomenclature from the United Nations. Is it possible that the simple use of that phrase might cause someone to believe we want to harm and destroy Israel? Again, that is nonsense. Also, despite our efforts to get our prenatals to Israel, there are no agencies, entities or health care providers, either government or non-government, that have expressed a need. Israel has a remarkable health care system (likely the best in the Middle East), so they have not needed Vitamin Angels’ help. As far as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the health care system is not the same as that in neighboring Israel and, as a result, we have received numerous requests for assistance. Of course, we are happy to fulfill those needs wherever they might be and just as we do around the world, we validate that the products are in fact getting directly into the hands of those mothers and children in need.
The standard United Nations designation for the West Bank and Gaza Strip are the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Is it possible that someone managing the list of countries on Vitamin Angels’ website intended to destroy Israel with the clerical act associated with typing in those three words? That is obviously not the case and a ridiculous assumption to make. In any event, the Vitamin Angels website has now been changed to refer to those areas as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Regardless, the prior phrase in no way justified the lies that harm a good man’s life’s work. Vitamin Angels’ sole goals are the mothers and children they help. Children and women are all too often the innocent victims of politics, so Howard makes sure politics plays no role in the activities of Vitamin Angels. Although we would be happy to send them all the prenatal vitamins they need, apparently, Israel does not have any present need. Like the US, their highly developed health care system reduces the need, compared to other developing countries with lower standards of living and dietary challenges. If the person who wrote this post would like to see my prenatal vitamins in Israel, then help us find an organization that needs them. As I said, Howard and I will be happy to immediately send all they need. Accusations and lies are easy to spread, particularly thanks to the Internet; however, it is a lot more difficult to make a positive difference in the lives of others. That is the unselfish and unceasing work of Howard Schiffer and Vitamin Angels. His work and that of his nonprofit are truly admirable. Again, I am not sure why someone would write such angry lies with no knowledge of the facts or circumstances, but it reminds me of what my Grandma used to always say, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” Fortunately, there will always be men like Howard Schiffer who will continue to his good work and his good deeds. I am proud and fortunate to know him.
Given the attack on the good reputation of Vitamin Angels, I thought I would take a moment to say a little about them. Vitamin Angels existed long before our Prenatal Program. Over the past few decades, Vitamin Angels and its Founder, Howard Schiffer have distributed more than one billion doses of Vitamin A to children throughout the developing world, saving millions of lives and preventing blindness in millions of children. They have also distributed more than a billion doses of children’s vitamins. I had always contributed to their exceptional work, but several years ago, I told Howard that I wanted to do something more significant than writing a check. That I wanted to make a difference in the world and have a direct connection to making that difference. I was aware that there were so many nutritionally vulnerable populations, both around the world and even right here in America. One day, while reading my weekly research summary I found the answer in a study discussing the unrivaled difference that a prenatal vitamin can make in the life of a mother and her baby in the developing world. There was no other time of life when vitamins could play such a life-saving and life-changing role. The answer appeared to be prenatal vitamins and I certainly knew how to make them, but how could I get them to millions of mothers around the world. So, I asked Howard, since he was already getting vitamins to children everywhere, perhaps he could do the same for prenatal vitamins. It was definitely far outside what they were already doing, but since Howard agreed that mothers were perhaps the most vulnerable population that he would figure it out and do whatever it took to make this happen. He unselfishly said that as long as I make the prenatal vitamins, he will get into the hands of mothers in need. His commitment has never wavered and our prenatal vitamins are now found around the world and throughout America – regardless of politics. I believe we are now the world’s largest single source of donated prenatal vitamins.
All this talk of political differences reminds me of my experiences a couple of decades ago, back when we advertised on radio. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the best radio shows for an “intelligent” advertisement were talk radio shows, since folks “actively” listened to those shows. Many of those talk radio shows were highly political – some far left and some far right. As a result, I would frequently receive angry letters from folks on the left, saying they would boycott my brand if I continued advertising on shows that were on the far right. I also received angry letters from folks on the right, telling me that they would boycott my brand if I continued advertising on shows whose host was on the far left. Even the folks in the middle were not pleased. It seemed I could not win at all. I was just trying to provide some healthy information and I ended up offending and alienating many folks not because of what I said but as a result of “where” I was saying it. I could not understand how health or vitamins had anything to do with politics, so I decided to respectfully “fight back.” To me, it was obvious that everyone deserved to be healthy no matter what their politics might be. So, from that moment on, each time I received letters and phone calls complaining about politics, I would personally write or call the folks or organizations who sent them. I would calmly, respectfully and patiently inform them that my company and its products were completely non-political and so long as these hosts had not done or advocated anything wrong or illegal, then just because there were political differences, it did not mean that our political opponents deserved to be unhealthy. Without exception, they all agreed with me and, so long as I remained nonpolitical, they agreed they would not boycott my products. It was at that moment that I learned a very important lesson: That even those with the most extreme political views can still be receptive to a respectfully communicated different opinion. The world may have changed too much since then, but it is my fervent hope and prayer that we can all find a way to peacefully coexist despite our differences in the future.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day and whether our Mothers are still with us or not, it is an opportunity to contemplate and celebrate the person that brought us into the world, and without whom, we would not exist. Also, as Americans, we get to enjoy this day under circumstances far better than most of those with whom we share our Vitamin Angels prenatal vitamins. It underscores how blessed we are here in America and why our work with Vitamin Angels is so important today and every day. Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Best of Health.
As a Jew that shops in support of other Jews and their products IT IS VITAL to me to support ANYTHING and EVERYTHING ZION.
I happen to adore your products, your teaching, your mind. Glad you are open hearted, minded, and your own person in the face of so much hate these days for the Chosen.
I have been out of the current controversies. I learned of them from reading your responses. I do not see anything in your original commentary which indicates Trump bashing. However, I must comment on your response to those who may have indicated that you and the charitable organization are anti-Israel or biased towards the “Palestinians” Not giving vitamins to Israel while giving them to the Palestinian West Bank certainly does not indicate anti-Israel bias or make a political statement. It indicates that the organization distributes vitamins to areas thought to be in greatest need. However, it is disingenuous to state that the organization, and you by agreement, does not express political views in this regard. The name you chose to use for the referenced territories, “Occupied Palestinian Territories”, does make a strong political statement and this is supported by the reactions you described in your response. This territory has many commonly used names. This is far from the most common and certainly is not neutral. You defend the term by stating that it is used by the United Nations. This is no defense. The United Nations has taken blatant anti-Semitic and anti Israel actions. Use of this term further indicates this. You and your friend are entitled to your views. They do not diminish or affect the quality of your product or the good done by the charitable organization. However, as you have been saying, words have specific meanings, intentions and consequences. I strongly urge you to change the term used to the neutral, “Palestinian West Bank”, and eliminate biased language and terms, when engaged in communication regarding your products and the charitable organizations with which you are affiliated. It may not be your intention or your desired effect to communicate a political view or bias, but that is exactly what happened through the language used.
Thank you Andrew … I am able to celebrate “Mother’s Day” everyday … in part because of your vitamins … and because of my loving family.
Thank you for providing vitamins, not only for those in need in these United States of America, but for the many countries around the world. I/we have extended family members in other countries and I have no doubt that your vitamins are helping these same ones. Thank you for your generosity.
Andrew , most of us know you do not hate Israel .
I really do not see how anyone could even fathom such a thought about you.
As for me there is NO country that I wish the children or pregnant women to be malnourished or in need basic life sustaining needs .
Of course that is not the way the world is , borders decide how the people living in that area are viewed .
I truly do not hate people because of where they live .
Andrew, I am a busy person and do not have time to read your defense in great depth, but I think you should just make the vitamins, be involved with whatever charity you want, and . You are just making things worse.
this is a fitting post considering mothers day is tomorrow. grown folks bashing others is just a childs tantrum. lashing out when they think something is not going their way. lashing out when they think others do differently than they want. lashing out to get attention. growing up is a challenge for some. tolerance is taught, some missed the learning sessions of this life skill. many of these tantrums are disguised as opinions. true opinions add value, true opinions do not bash or beat others down. otherwise they are just tantrums.
what do good moms and dads do when their children throw a tantrum?
Thank you for writing this, Andrew. I feel that you are owed an apology from the ones who are starting such nonsense about you. It is really getting ridiculous that you have to keep explaining and defending yourself, (although you are so articulate in doing so!) against such mean spirited comments and lies. I am so sorry that our world has turned into a free-for-all of absurd political views and viscous words. I would love to see a return of the respect and dignity that we grew up with, also. Keep on teaching us about all the benefits of your products, as we need to see you ! There are just a few “rotten apples”, don’t let them spoil the whole bunch! Thanks again, from a fan.
Don’t let messed up people mess you up. Continue to do what you are doing and sleep well at night. I’m sorry you have to go through this. I appreciate any opportunity to learn more about your organization, though, so thank you for your reply.
So sorry, Andrew Lessman that you have to come on the HSN boards and defend yourself against bullying. TWICE. Shame on the bullies.
HSN, there is free speech, and then there is slander. The bullies come to slander anyone they feel like, and Andrew is their latest project.
HSN Boards, maybe it’s time to take a more stern stance and ban the bullies. This is ridiculous. Andrew Lessman has been with HSN for a long time. It’s time to stop cyberbullies behind a keyboard for making life miserable for the HSN Partners and for the rest of us. I do not understand the mindset of a person that is so unhappy with their lot in life that the cyberbully has to either start trouble or slander someone. As the previous poster stated, it is NOT fun here at the HSN boards sometimes.
Like I said, this has been going on for a long time. It’s nothing new. I agree wholeheartedly about HSN taking a stand and removing mean spirited comments or baiting directed at ALL members, not just vendors. i hoped with the launch of the new forum that they would take a stronger stand on the childish behaviors and keep the boards positive and product driven. It is sliding down the same slippery slope.
Hi @andrewlessman I was very concerned about this, so I greatly appreciate your comments about Israel. I’m sure you know, that most of the world, does NOT support Israel’s right to exist. I am very happy to know that you disagree with that viewpoint. I love the Vitamin Angels charity, and support the desire to provide prenatal vitamins to ALL the moms in the world, regardless of race, religion, politics, etc. Like the USA, Israel has it’s share of people who live in poverty, people who are malnourished and go to bed hungry. Like the USA, Israel is not immune to these problems.
There is something you should know, Andrew, and that is that we trust you. Regardless of your political beliefs or any other beliefs you hold, please know, above all, you are greatly trusted. Never ever, not even for a millisecond, would I ever think you would lie to us. Do you understand what a great thing this is? I can count on one hand, the people I truly trust with all of my heart, and you are one of them. If this was not true, I wouldn’t be ingesting your supplements by the handfuls every day. There is not a higher compliment I could give to anyone, to say that you have my complete trust. While I do appreciate all of your words in this blog, all you really had to post is, “IT’S NOT TRUE”, and most of us would have been completely reassured with those few words. So I hope you know, at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, above all, you are trusted, Andrew Lessman.
oh, my. here we go again….
no offense to Andrew but the other
hsn community members/people need to get a brain. 🙂
and to Andrew, here’s two pieces of advice:
1. at times, try to be more cerebral than emotional.
believe me, I not only struggle with this every day
but I try to practice it every day in hopes that
one day it will come to me automatically
so that I can then easily and with full cognition
set myself free of unnecessary emotional pain.
always remember that in the end, you can only control yourself
and not the actions of others- positive, negative or indifferent.
2. the more you dwell on something, the worse it gets.
now Andrew- please excuse me for being so bold.
however, I would not have commented on this post
(or on the other one for that matter) if I did not love you Andrew
and everything that you stand for.
you are a loyal, learned, responsible, professional
and progressive man.
a good man at that.
so don’t let other “nay-sayers” get you down or tell you differently, my friend.
you set straight your perspective, so now let it go.
life’s too short to dwell. 🙂
especially, when you can’t control other people.
I love you Andrew!!!
as for the community, it’s truly a shame that it’s not fun here anymore.
what ever happened to respect and
educated decision making and commentary???
I think that it was unfortunately left behind with the old hsn community forum.
what a shame. what a true disappointment.
this should not happen here.
oh, sigh… xoxo
Unfortunately, this has been going on for well over a year and is nothing new. Some people are downright ruthless when hiding behind a keyboard. I don’t want to read about Joy talking too much, Jackie’s voice from Slinky, which hosts had plastic surgery, a guest has a double chin, or antagonizing comments toward another member. People say they are against it, yet they are quick to jump in and to quote another member “act like a pack of wild dogs.” This is just Mean Girl behavior and doesn’t do anything toward a kind and positive community OR world. I can’t just blame the girls, though. We do have men (they say they are men) who behave the same way. A highly respected husband and wife team (you know who I am talking about) participated in the community and he is bullied something fierce. Got to hand it to the husband because he always takes the high road when others go low. Let me tell you, they go VERY low and should be ashamed of their behavior. Maybe it’s a male thing and certain males feel threatened by another male in the community? My husband met the same resistance. So, Andrew is not alone with the lies, misconceptions and mean spirited comments directed at him. Only we can change this. Stop and think before posting. Is it kind? Is it necessary? If the answer is no, it doesn’t belong here.
Don’t forget; “Is it true?”
Posted in Health & Wellness
05.20.17 2:29 AM