White House press secretary says she misheard question on antisemitism during briefing

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre misheard a question about concern over the rise in antisemitism amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas during Monday’s press briefing, she told POLITICO in a statement.

“I did mishear the question,” Jean-Pierre said. “As I have footstomped many times from the podium and on the air, antisemitism is an abomination that this President has fought against his entire life; and I feel strongly about that work. That’s why, in the briefing room, I have blasted the repulsive increase in antisemitic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and hate crimes in our nation, calling out that, tragically, this is a rising threat.”

During the briefing Monday, Jean-Pierre said the White House had not seen “any credible threats,” when asked about the administration’s level of concern about increasing antisemitism. She then went on to address “hate-fueled attacks,” against Muslim and Arab Americans.

The response received backlash online, including from one Democratic lawmaker who slammed the “weak answer” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“What a weak answer,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) posted Monday evening. “The simple answer is yes, you are concerned about the rise of antisemitism. Of course we are also worried about hatred against Muslim Americans. Must do better.”

The number of antisemitic incidents across the world has been on the rise since the war between Israel and Hamas began earlier this month, according to the Anti-Defamation League. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has directed U.S. attorneys across the country to keep in close contact with state and local officials as threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities rise.

President Joe Biden denounced both antisemitism and Islamophobia during an Oval Office speech last week, following the death of Wadea Al-Fayoume, the 6-year-old Palestinian American boy who authorities say was stabbed to death because he was Muslim.

“We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens,” Biden said. “We must without equivocation denounce antisemitism. We must also without equivocation denounce Islamophobia. And to all you hurting, I want you to know I see you. You belong. And I want to say this to you: You’re all American.”

Jean-Pierre has previously condemned antisemitism during several White House press conferences. In an Oct. 12 briefing, she noted that the “entire Biden–Harris administration” is “committed to doing all we can to protect against antisemitism and other forms of hate.”

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