Ex-Obama adviser faces hate crime probe in New York

Published November 23, 2023
Stuart Seldowitz, a former Obama administration adviser,  hurls Islamophobic abuse at a food vendor in New York. — Screengrab from X
Stuart Seldowitz, a former Obama administration adviser, hurls Islamophobic abuse at a food vendor in New York. — Screengrab from X

WASHINGTON: The New York police have initiated a hate crime investigation against Stuart Seldowitz, a former Obama administration adviser, following disturbing incidents captured on video.

Seldowitz, 64, a routine customer at a street cart on 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue, New York, near his Upper East Side residence, was filmed hurling Islamophobic abuse at a food vendor.

In three separate videos shared on Twitter, he was filmed threatening the vendor, asking him if he was a “rapist” and telling him to “learn English so you don’t have to work in a cart”.

Seldowitz also called the vendor a “terrorist” and threatened to send his pictures to the Egyptian intelligence agency. “The Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They will take them out one by one,” he said.

In one of his most abhorrent remarks, he said: “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, it wasn’t enough.”

Seldowitz, identified as Barack Obama’s former director of the National Security Council, later issued an apology, expressing regret for bringing religion into the incident. Despite his apology, the fallout from the videos continues, with NYC City Council Member Julie Menin, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, announcing an ongoing investigation by the 19th Precinct.

Throughout the videos, the vendor maintained composure, responding to Seldowitz’s inflammatory comments with professionalism.

“Do you want to buy something?” the vendor asked Seldowitz. “I am working now,” Seldowitz refused to leave, and said: ‘No, I don’t.’ “I’m going to put a big sign here saying ‘this guy believes in Hamas.’”

He said he did not want to buy anything from the vendor because “I won’t give you a penny of my money. I don’t want to go. I have a right to stand on the sidewalk. You have no right to be here.”

Then he asked the vendor: “You have a permit?” When the vendor replied that he indeed had a permit and a licence, Seldowitz said: “But you don’t have a visa?” The vendor shot back: “It’s none of your business.” Seldowitz retorted: “Actually it is my business, I know the guy who does all of these.” In another, he says: “You’re a terrorist. You support terrorism.”

As the videos gained traction online, a sign appeared on the vendor’s cart, reading, “The Upper East Side Stands with You”.

A media report claimed that Seldowitz served as an agent for the State Department under five different presidents. Meanwhile, members of the Obama administration have yet to comment on the controversy surrounding their former adviser.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2023

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