'I haven't heard you condemn anything on the Democrat side.'
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise was asked by a Jewish constituent on Monday to address rising white supremacist and anti-Semitic rhetoric within the GOP.
Scalise (R-LA) responded by complaining about critics of Israel and demanding the constituent condemn two Democratic, Muslim-American congresswomen whom he said had made similarly anti-Semitic remarks.
The exchange took place during a town hall forum at St. Tammany Parish Council Chambers in Mandeville, Louisiana. During the question-and-answer period, self-described Jewish educator Ezra Oliff-Libermann asked why Scalise had been relatively silent amid growing anti-Semitic commentary from those in his party, despite pledging previously to stand with the Jewish community in the aftermath of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shootings.
Scalise interrupted Oliff-Libermann to tell him "the facts disagree" with his comment, adding, "I'm not gonna let a statement like that go, that's inaccurate."
Pressed further, Scalise claimed that he had "stood up against the anti-Semitism" in the halls of Congress, blaming "two of our colleagues on the Democrat [sic] side," Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), for being "actively and openly anti-Semitic" in their "statements and actions."
He also complained that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had brought forward a general condemnation of hate earlier this year, rather than a specific condemnation of Omar, after the Minnesota lawmaker referenced an anti-Semitic "dual loyalty" trope while speaking about pro-Israel lobbying groups.
After Oliff-Libermann reminded Scalise that Donald Trump had called Jewish Americans like himself "disloyal" for disagreeing with the GOP, the lawmaker said he "absolutely condemn[ed] all of that," before pivoting back to attacking anti-Israel views.
"I wish you would stand up against the anti-Semitism and acknowledge the real anti-Semitism by Reps. Omar, Tlaib, and others," Scalise said. "I haven't heard you condemn anything on the Democrat [sic] side. I would encourage you to acknowledge it."
Last year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the man Scalise backed for the speakership before Democrats regained control of the chamber in January — came under criticism for an anti-Semitic tweet about Democratic donors.
"We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA," he wrote in October. The since-deleted tweet later resurfaced amid controversy over Omar's remarks in February.
Earlier this year, the head of the House GOP campaign arm, or NRCC, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), made similar comments, stating in a March fundraising letter that "deep-pocketed far-left billionaires George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg" had "bought" Democrats in Congress.
A spokesman for the NRCC defended the letter, saying, "There is nothing anti-Semitic about drawing attention to three billionaire donors (one who does not even identify with the Jewish faith) and who they are giving money to."
Trump himself has made a wide array of stereotypical comments about Jews, including suggesting they are more loyal to Israel than America, and has repeatedly defended white supremacist protesters who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 as "very fine people."
In response to these things, Scalise — who in 2014 acknowledged that he had spoken to a group of white supremacists connected with former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, 12 years earlier — has so far only offered general condemnations of anti-Semitism in both parties.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.