A former National Security Council official who served in ex-President Barack Obama’s administration on Wednesday was arrested on hate crime charges after he was caught on video harassing a halal food vendor in New York City.
The charges that Stuart Seldowitz faces include aggravated harassment and stalking as a hate crime, WABC reported.
The vendor had earlier filed a report with police saying a man had approached him multiple times using Islamophobic language that made him feel “afraid,” according to The New York Times.
Seldowitz did not respond to reporters’ questions as he was escorted out of the the police department in handcuffs.
Several videos posted on social media this month show Seldowitz making Islamophobic comments on multiple occasions toward the 24-year-old street food vendor.
In one of the videos, Seldowitz appears to threaten the Egyptian-born vendor, saying the Muhabarat, Egypt’s intelligence service, will get to his parents.
“Does your father like his fingernails?” Seldowitz asks. “They’ll take them out one by one.”
Seldowitz is then asked to leave, but refuses to.
“I’m an American... it’s a free country, it’s not like Egypt,” he says.
Seldowitz went on to insult the vendor for saying he doesn’t speak English.
“That’s why you’re selling food in a food cart, because you’re ignorant,” Seldowitz said.
In a separate encounter captured on camera, Seldowitz is heard calling the vendor a “terrorist” and a “terrible person.”
The vendor then responded: “You kill children, not me.”
“You know what, if we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what, it wasn’t enough,” Seldowitz replied.
In a phone interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, Seldowitz claimed he called out the vendor only after the latter endorsed the Hamas militant group.
“At that point, I got rather upset and I’ve said things to him, that in retrospect, I probably regret, though — that I do regret,” he told the outlet.
Gotham Government Relations, a former employer of Seldowitz, announced it has severed ties with him, noting Seldowitz hasn’t worked with them in years.
“The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm,” a note posted on the lobbying firm’s homepage reads.
A now-deleted profile of Seldowitz on the company’s website stated he served as Acting Director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate in the early 2000s. A LinkedIn profile belonging to Seldowitz, which also appears to have been removed, said he was employed in that role from February 2009 to January 2011, according to CNN.
Seldowitz told the Times he had previously worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations, including holding a position at the State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs.
The arrest of Seldowitz comes as tensions are running high amid the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war following the unprecedented Oct. 7 attack the militant group launched on southern Israel. Attacks on Jewish and Muslim New Yorkers have been on the rise since the Middle East conflict broke out, according to the Times.