US second gentleman slams hate ‘epidemic’ amid anti-Semitism rise

At a White House roundtable, Doug Emhoff urges everyone to condemn anti-Semitism and warns against normalising bigotry.

'Words matter,' says Doug Emhoff during a roundtable discussion with Jewish leaders about the rise in anti-Semitism [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

United States Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff has decried what he called an “epidemic of hate” as the White House convened a roundtable to address the rise of anti-Semitism in the wake of bigoted remarks by the rapper Kanye West, now known as Ye.

Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, met with US officials and representatives of Jewish-American organisations at the White House event on Wednesday, December 7, stressing that anti-Semitism should not be normalised.

“There’s an epidemic of hate facing our country,” Emhoff, who is Jewish, said. “We’re seeing a rapid rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts. Let me be clear: Words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud; they are literally screaming them.”

The first second gentleman ever, Emhoff is also the first Jewish person to be married to a US president or vice president.

Ye, a once-celebrated music artist with a large fanbase, has been making anti-Semitic remarks for weeks, which culminated in his praising Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in an interview with far-right media personality Alex Jones last week.

Before the Hitler remarks, last month, former US President Donald Trump hosted Ye and his white nationalist associate Nick Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, drawing rebuke from Democrats and some of his own Republican allies.

By then, Ye had been temporarily suspended from social media networks and dropped by major brands and business partners for his anti-Semitic comments.

“I just want to make a few things clear: The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity,” US President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter last week.

The White House event on Wednesday comes amid fears of increased hate speech on Twitter after it was acquired by billionaire Elon Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist” and had criticised the platform’s content moderation policies.

Basketball star Kyrie Irving also sparked outrage last month when he shared a film containing anti-Semitic tropes on social media.

US Jewish communities have endured deadly anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, including the killing of 11 worshippers by a white supremacist gunman at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.

On Wednesday, Emhoff said that Jewish communities are in pain, and he called on all people to condemn anti-Semitism.

“Everyone, all of us, must be against this, must be against anti-Semitism,” he said. “We know when people refuse to condemn this vile speech and these vile acts … It only serves to ignite violence, violence among extremists.”

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday that anti-Semitic rhetoric is “incredibly dangerous”.

“We’re going to continue condemning anti-Semitism and hate wherever it exists. It should not have a place in our society,” she told reporters.

Source: Al Jazeera