Emhoff: ‘Epidemic of hate’ exists in U.S., mustn’t become norm

Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks during a roundtable discussion with Jewish leaders about the rise in antisemitism and efforts to fight hate in the United States in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, said Wednesday that a rise in antisemitism in the United States shows that an “epidemic of hate” exists in the country and must not become normal.

Emhoff, who is Jewish, led a White House discussion on the issue with Jewish leaders representing the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox denominations. They also were discussing ways to combat hate.

“There is an epidemic of hate facing our country. We’re seeing a rapid rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts,” he said. “Let me be clear: Words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud. They are literally screaming them.”

He said such attitudes are dangerous and must not be accepted.

“We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts,” Emhoff said. “We must all, all of us, not stay silent.”

The second gentleman, as Emhoff is known, said there is no either-or or both sides on the issue. He is the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. president or vice president, and has become increasingly outspoken about growing bias toward adherents of the Jewish faith, and hate at large, in the United States. He said what is happening is “painful” to him.

“Everyone, all of us must be against this, must be against antisemitism,” he said.

The roundtable, at which various White House and other officials also participated, follows a surge in anti-Jewish vitriol spread by public figures, including a famous rapper and other prominent people.

Former President Donald Trump recently hosted Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust-denying white supremacist, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. The rapper Ye — formerly known as Kanye West — expressed love for Adolf Hitler in an interview. Basketball star Kyrie Irving appeared to promote an antisemitic film on social media. Neo-Nazi trolls are clamoring to return to Twitter as new CEO Elon Musk grants “amnesty” to suspended accounts.

Emhoff said Wednesday’s roundtable was the beginning of a conversation.

“And as long as I have this microphone, I am going to speak out against hate, bigotry, and lies,’ he said.

“I’m proud to live openly as a Jew and I’m not afraid,” Emhoff said.

The White House said participants in the roundtable included the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Agudath, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, American Jewish Committee, Orthodox Union, Jewish on Campus, National Council of Jewish Women, Hillel, Secure Community Network, Religious Action Center, Anti-Defamation League, Integrity First for America and American Friends of Lubavitch.

Among the White House officials participating were senior presidential advisers Susan Rice and Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.