Second gentleman Doug Emhoff said on Wednesday that the rise in antisemitism shows that the United States is facing an “epidemic of hate” and that it’s on Americans to speak up against far-right extremism.
The husband of Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at a roundtable at the White House with Jewish leaders and senior U.S. officials to address the visible increase in hateful rhetoric and behavior towards Jewish people in America. Emhoff is the first Jewish person among the top four officials in the executive branch and has become increasingly outspoken about the growing hostility toward the Jewish community and other marginalized groups in the U.S.
“There’s an epidemic facing our country. We’re seeing a rapid rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts. And let me be clear words matter,” Emhoff said. “People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud. They are literally screaming at them.”
He added: “Judaism isn’t defined by how much we go to temple or how often we celebrate traditions. It’s who we are as a people, it’s our identity. It’s my identity. And I’m in pain right now. We’re all in pain right now. Our community is in pain.”
The roundtable was convened after a surge in antisemitic rhetoric by public figures — including rapper Kanye West, NBA player Kyrie Irving and a slew of neo-Nazis trying to return to Twitter now that its new CEO Elon Musk has expressed granting “amnesty” to accounts suspended for hate.
“Antisemitism is dangerous. We cannot normalize it. We all have an obligation to condemn this violence,” Emhoff said. “There’s no both sides-ism on this one. There’s only one side: Everyone, all of us, must be against this, must be against antisemitism.”
Emhoff’s comment seemingly referred to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazis marched to antisemitic chants while carrying torches. Then-President Donald Trump received backlash after responding to the incident by saying there were “very fine people” on both sides.
Trump, who has a history of antisemitic rhetoric, recently came under fire for hosting Holocaust-denying white supremacist Nick Fuentes at his home in Florida. Fuentes, who attended the Charlottesville rally, has been influential in seeking to push the conservative movement further right.
Emhoff said that the White House has increased funding for physical security at nonprofits and appointed leaders to focus on combating hate and extremism across the country. He also said he would continue fighting to speak out.
“I understand the weight of this responsibility” of being the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, he said. “I do. And as a second gentleman, let me reiterate: I will not remain silent, and I’m proud to be Jewish. I’m proud to live openly as a Jew. And I’m not afraid. We cannot live in fear. We refuse to be afraid.”
He added: “As long as I have this microphone, I’m going to speak out against hate, bigotry, violence, and to speak out against those who praise fascist murderers and idealize extremists. I’m going to speak out against Holocaust deniers, I’m gonna call those out who don’t do it.”