THE STORY seemed clear enough. Raymond Ho said he was fired as head of Maryland Public Television, in large part, because he's a born-again Christian.
And it was the Jews, he implied, who did it.
Yes, another one of those Jewish conspiracies -- like communism and the Trilateral Commission.
Ho pointed to a "Jewish connection" among his critics. And he told Sun reporters in an interview that, as he fought to keep his job, he knew "the Jews would close ranks."
"It's just the way it goes," he said. "Jews always close ranks with each other."
I kept waiting for something about bloodsuckers and possibly large noses.
You don't hear that kind of talk in public much these days, unless it's from Louis Farrakhan, who then goes on to say he was misquoted. Or from Pat Robertson, who then goes on to say he was misunderstood.
In polite company, anti-Semitism went out with a guy named Hitler.
And so I figured that Ho, who seems pretty urbane, who had in fact once converted to Judaism himself, might simply have been so distressed by the firing that he said things he couldn't have possibly believed.
When I called him yesterday, I wanted to give him a chance to say that the kind of person who brings us "Sesame Street" can't also be the kind of person who has "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" on his bookshelf.
I asked him about the Jewish connection.
"It's coincidental," he said, "that the critics who spoke openly against me are Jewish." He mentioned his old boss, David Nevins. He mentioned state Sen. Barbara Hoffman.
What is the relevance of their religion?
"The relevance," Ho said, "is that there are people at MPT who have alleged that I have asked people to pray, which is totally untrue."
Are all the critics Jewish? Is Parris Glendening, the man Ho says wanted him out from the beginning, Jewish?
Is this really a Jewish conspiracy?
At that point, I thought Ho might back away from his statements. He can't really mean a Jewish conspiracy, can he?
Until he began: "During this particular investigation [of Ho] in 1992, the former chairman of public television, who also, coincidentally, is Jewish . . ."
It took my breath away.
I don't know much about the dispute between Ho and those in the Glendening administration. I didn't know who was the bad guy in the dispute. And, like most of us, I didn't really care that much, either, so long as "Masterpiece Theatre" shows up every Sunday. It just seemed like so much political infighting.
And then comes talk of Jews, who, as we know, already run Hollywood and also many of your major delicatessens.
Here's what must have happened to Ho: The screws got tight
ened and core beliefs slipped out. It's good that they did. Nobody who thinks this way belongs anywhere near the controls of a TV network.
Ho said he is a victim, a scapegoat. He said he could be the victim of racism, citing as evidence a Washington Post report that those in the Glendening administration had a "Heave Ho" policy.
He said he was crucified for his beliefs.
And he said, too, that despite the allegations against him, he never asked anyone to pray with him.
He will admit, though, that he might cite God's will during meetings. And, in fact, he was quoted in Baltimore magazine as saying, "God has put his hopes in me, and television is the instrument."
That may not be the kind of thinking that goes with running a publicly supported network. Particularly once you know that he thinks Jews could be prejudiced, as a group, against born-again Christians.
When asked whether he believed in this alleged prejudice, he said, "I don't think that's for me to say."
And when asked if he believed that Jews, to a greater extent than any other group, are prone to closing ranks, he said, "I think you will have to find out for yourself."
He said some other things, too. He said he turned down a severance package worth $300,000 because his honor wouldn't allow him to accept it, asking: "What profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?"
That's a question definitely worth considering.