The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Boebert dismisses antisemitism push as effort to target conservatives

After White House announces initiative to combat hatred of Jews, GOP congresswoman says it’s a way to ‘go after conservatives’

President Biden delivers remarks on May 16 at a celebration marking Jewish American Heritage Month. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
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President Biden on Thursday released the country’s first national strategy for combating antisemitism, a landmark lauded by Jewish and anti-hate groups as progress toward addressing the increasing instances of violence and bias toward Jewish people in the United States.

But Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) saw the effort as an attack on those of her political persuasion. “When they say stuff like this, they mean they want to go after conservatives,” she tweeted. “Their tactics are straight out of the USSR’s playbook.”

Her comments quickly attracted criticism from detractors who accused her of conflating a straightforward campaign against antisemitism with an assault on the right — and, by implication, equating conservatives with antisemites.

“So you agree? You think you’re antisemitic?” Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) tweeted in a popular meme format from the teen comedy “Mean Girls.”

In response to questions about her tweet, Boebert’s office provided a statement equating the anti-hate effort with censorship of free speech and adding that she does not condone antisemitism.

“This is the latest version of this administration’s failed ‘Ministry of Truth,’” Boebert said in the statement. “The First Amendment guarantees a marketplace of ideas where truth, beauty, and justice ultimately win out.”

Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates said Boebert was “mistaken.” He added that Biden’s push against hate defied politics and was rooted in long-standing American values.

“If anyone finds opposition to hate threatening, they need to look inward,” Bates said in a statement. “Congresswoman Boebert should also Google the Soviet Union’s long, repulsive history of antisemitism. She might find a result for Joe Biden, who at the time decried antisemitic acts by Soviet communists as ‘shameful.’”

Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), who is Jewish, said the goal of fighting antisemitism has nothing to do with targeting conservatives, adding that he would be happy to sit down with Boebert “if she’s struggling with any of this.”

“Combatting antisemitism isn’t an attack on conservatives — it’s a denunciation of antisemitism,” he said in a statement. “Combatting hate is a priority for both Republicans and Democrats, and it should be for every Member of Congress.”

Boebert has a history of controversial and inflammatory statements. In February, she suggested that God used her to stand up to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), whom she indirectly referred to as one of her “demons,” while speaking at a women’s conference at a Dallas church.

Biden on Thursday announced a four-pillar strategy to confront hate in a video address, outlining a plan that includes more than 100 steps for the government to take. The goals include increasing awareness and understanding of antisemitism, ramping up security for Jewish communities, reversing the normalization of discrimination, and improving on collective efforts to counter hate.

“In the past several years, hate has been given too much oxygen, fueling a record rise in antisemitism,” Biden said. “It’s simply wrong. It’s not only wrong, it’s immoral, it’s unacceptable. It’s on all of us to stop it.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a group dedicated to fighting anti-Jewish hatred, counted 3,697 antisemitic incidents last year, a 36 percent increase from the previous year and the highest figure since it began keeping records in 1979.

Last month, a trial began for a Pennsylvania man charged with fatally shooting 11 people and wounding two at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history. Authorities said the defendant, Robert D. Bowers, regularly posted antisemitic and white-nationalist diatribes on social media before the killing.

Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, said at Thursday’s event that antisemitism threatened to divide the country and erode trust in its institutions.

“Antisemitism delivers simplistic, false, and dangerous narratives that have led to extremists perpetrating deadly violence against Jews,” said Emhoff, who has made fighting antisemitism a central part of his role. “It is on all of us to put an end to the visceral hate that we are seeing across our nation. We cannot normalize this.”

Biden’s plan outlines steps that Congress, state and local governments, tech companies and other businesses, faith leaders, and others can take to combat antisemitism. For instance, it asks tech companies to establish “zero tolerance” policies against antisemitic content on their platforms.

White House officials also touted the scheduled opening next year of the first U.S.-based Holocaust research center as part of the broader effort to increase education about the dangers of antisemitism. Federal agencies are committing to more training around diversity, equity and inclusion to root out workplace discrimination and violence.

A group of more than 25 Jewish organizations applauded Biden’s plan, saying in a statement that they “appreciate the clarity and urgency demonstrated by the White House in releasing its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.”

On Twitter, antisemitic tweets and account creation surged after Elon Musk took over the platform, The Post previously reported.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), who is Jewish, has previously said publicly that he has been bombarded with antisemitic messages on Twitter and has called for the platform to beef up its moderation process.

On Friday, he applauded the administration’s announcement as “tremendously important,” saying it should be welcomed by all Americans no matter their political beliefs.

“No one is interested in going after conservatives — that’s ridiculous,” Moskowitz said. “We’re going after Nazis. And if the fact is that the majority of Nazis are voting for conservatives, then perhaps the better question is: why? Why are a majority of Nazis voting for conservatives? That’s a question that they should ask themselves, perhaps.”