Former Obama administration official arrested for Islamophobic harassment of NYC vendor

Former Obama administration official arrested for Islamophobic harassment of NYC vendor

New York – November 23, 2023  

In a disturbing incident, Stuart Seldowitz, a former national security adviser in the Obama administration, has been arrested and charged with aggravated harassment and stalking, including stalking as a hate crime, following anti-Islamic remarks made to a Manhattan food cart vendor, according to the New York Police Department.

The 64-year-old Manhattan resident was captured on video harassing and verbally abusing a 24-year-old vendor on the Upper East Side. The NYPD announced on Wednesday that Seldowitz faces charges of second-degree aggravated harassment and three counts of stalking, one of which is considered a hate crime.

In the footage posted on the X platform (formerly known as Twitter), Seldowitz is seen taunting the vendor with Islamophobic language. In one nighttime clip, he asked the vendor if he had raped his daughter “like Mohammed” did, prompting the vendor to politely ask him to leave.

During a daytime encounter, Seldowitz called the vendor a terrorist and accused him of supporting the killing of children. The exchange escalated, with Seldowitz stating, “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what? It wasn’t enough.” A bystander intervened in a second daytime incident, urging Seldowitz to leave.

Seldowitz, in an interview with NBC New York, claimed the incidents began innocently, alleging he was making small talk by asking if the vendor was Egyptian. He explained that tensions related to the Israel-Hamas conflict triggered him after the vendor purportedly expressed support for Hamas.

New York City Council member Julie Menin, representing the neighborhood where the incidents occurred, reported Seldowitz’s verbal abuse to the police. Menin condemned the actions as “vile hate speech and harassment” and emphasized that there is no place for hate in the community.

Gotham Government Relations, a consulting firm where Seldowitz worked, swiftly severed all affiliations with him, denouncing his actions as “vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice.”

These events unfold against a backdrop of heightened concerns among law enforcement officials about tensions in the Middle East spilling over to affect Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans. Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have surged by 388% in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Similarly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported a spike in requests for help and bias reports from Muslims across the U.S. during a specific period last month, compared to the same period last year.

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