White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stepped in it again on Monday when she could not give a coherent answer when asked about concerns over rising antisemitism against the backdrop of the war between Israel and Hamas. After fumbling the response, she was roundly criticized by people on the right. But it is not only conservatives taking issue with Jean-Pierre’s seeming effort to obfuscate the problem of anti-Jewish bigotry.
The controversy kicked off during a press conference when a reporter asked whether the Biden administration is concerned about the possibility that antisemitism might increase in the United States because of the war in the Middle East. The press secretary responded:
JEAN-PIERRE: So a couple of things. Um, look, we have not seen any credible threats. I know there’s been always questions about credible threats and so, I just want to make sure that’s out there.
But look, Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks, and certainly, President Biden understands that many of our Muslim, Arab, Arab-American, and Palestinian-American loved ones are worried about the hate being directed at their communities, and that is something you heard the president speak to in his address just last Thursday.
And so, one of the things that the president has done is directed his team, Homeland Security team to prioritize prevention and disruption of any emerging threats that could harm the Jewish, the Muslim, Arab Americans, or any other communities, and that is something the president has sought to do since day one. As you know, the president ran on, on, you know, bringing, protecting communities but also bringing communities together, protecting the soul of the nation. And so, that is something the president takes very, very seriously, and we’re going to continue to denounce any sort of hate toward any American here, and that’s what we’re going to continue to be steadfast on.
"What is [Biden's] level of concern right now about a potential rise of antisemitism?"— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 23, 2023
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: "Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks" pic.twitter.com/q1WYkpbKmn
Naturally, Jean-Pierre’s deflection to Islamophobia when being asked about antisemitism raised more than a few eyebrows – even on the left.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) blasted Jean-Pierre’s response, referring to it as “weak.”
What a weak answer. And why are you looking in the book? What’s the approved answer? The simple answer is yes, you are concerned about the rise of antisemitism. Of course we are also worried about hatred against Muslim Americans. Must do better.
What a weak answer. And why are you looking in the book? What’s the approved answer? The simple answer is yes, you are concerned about the rise of antisemitism. Of course we are also worried about hatred against Muslim Americans. Must do better. https://t.co/RdYhPTFpHa— Jared Moskowitz 🟧 (@JaredEMoskowitz) October 23, 2023
Jean-Pierre later tried to fix her error with a post on X, formerly Twitter, explaining that the White House is working to “address any potential threats that could harm Jewish communities, as well as Muslim, Arab American, and Palestinian American communities.”
To be clear: the President and our team are very concerned about a rise in antisemitism, especially after the horrific Hamas terrorist attack in Israel. https://t.co/oMeFDmZK66— Karine Jean-Pierre (@PressSec) October 23, 2023
But why not say that in the first place? Why did it take a backlash for Jean-Pierre to acknowledge that the possibility of increased antisemitism is an issue?
Moskowitz is right – there should be no “approved” answer when it comes to any type of bigotry. Unfortunately, as I wrote previously, progressives seem only to care about bigotry when it suits their political agenda, which is why Jean-Pierre deflected to Islamophobia in the first place.