Second gentleman Doug Emhoff said Thursday the lack of moral clarity displayed by university presidents unable to say that calling for the genocide of Jews is antisemitic is "unacceptable" and that antisemitism in the U.S. must be "condemned unequivocally and without context."
Emhoff, who is Jewish and the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, was speaking during the annual National Menorah lighting ceremony on the Ellipse on the first night of Hanukkah.
"What have we seen? We've seen the presidents of some of our most elite universities literally unable to denounce calling for the genocide of Jews as antisemitic," Emhoff said, according to CNN. "That lack of moral clarity is simply unacceptable.
"We've seen a restaurant owner, who's a friend of mine, accused of genocide simply because he's Jewish. We've all seen college students afraid to go to class. We've seen people afraid to go to markets, afraid to go to synagogues, literally being attacked on our streets.
"Let me be clear: When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or identity, and when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And it must be condemned and condemned unequivocally and without context."
Under intense questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., on Tuesday, Harvard University President Claudine Gay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, and University of Pennsylvania President Liz McGill would not directly answer whether the calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their universities' codes of conduct or rules against bullying and harassment. Each president used "it depends on the context" as an initial response.
The three were widely condemned, including a rebuke from the White House.
Emhoff, the nation's first second gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, has made countering antisemitism a significant part of his policy platform, even before Hamas' Oct. 7 terrorist attack in southern Israel.
"My wife, the vice president, she has always pushed me into this issue and had me lean into it," Emhoff said. "She said, 'This moment found you. Now get to work.' And I've tried to do that each and every day.
"I've also been reaching out privately to many people, just to check in and see how they are feeling. The common denominator of these conversations is that we're feeling alone and we're in pain."
Michael Katz ✉
Michael Katz is a Newsmax reporter with more than 30 years of experience reporting and editing on news, culture, and politics.
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