Second gentleman Doug Emhoff has slammed the presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT for what he called a ‘crisis of anti-Semitism’ in the US and abroad at a Hanukkah celebration in DC.
Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, said Thursday that American Jews are ‘feeling alone’ and ‘in pain’ as he denounced rising antisemitism amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and the ‘presidents of some of our most elite universities.’
Speaking at the lighting ceremony of a massive menorah in front of the White House to mark the first night of Hanukah, Emhoff criticized college presidents who testified on Capitol Hill this week, saying they ‘were unable to denounce calling for the genocide of Jews as anti-Semitic.’
‘The lack of moral clarity is unacceptable,’ he said. ‘Let me be clear, when Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or identity, and when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is anti-Semitism and it must be condemned and condemned unequivocally and without context.’
Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a nationally elected leader, highlighted fear in the Jewish community, moments before the menorah was lit on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. The national menorah has been lit annually since 1979, with the event sponsored by American Friends of Lubavitch.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff has slammed the presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT for what he called a ‘crisis of anti-Semitism’
Speaking at the lighting ceremony of a massive menorah in front of the White House, Emhoff criticized college presidents who testified on Capitol Hill this week
Emhoff added: ‘The common denominator of these conversations is that we´re feeling alone, we feel hated, we´re in pain.’
Addressing the Jewish community, he said Biden, Harris and the entire administration ‘have your back.’
The second gentleman’s remarks come after billionaire Jewish financier Bill Ackman celebrated what he believed was the impending resignation of the president of the University of Pennsylvania, tweeting: ‘One down.’
Ackman has been among the fiercest critics of Liz Magill, UPenn’s president, Claudine Gay of Harvard and MIT’s Dr Sally Kornbluth.
The three women all testified before Congress on Tuesday in an education committee hearing on antisemitism on campuses. All three equivocated when asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews was considered hate speech or harassment.
Their feeble response sparked widespread uproar, with one UPenn donor threatening to withdraw his $100m gift to the university unless Magill stood down. The board of advisors of Wharton School of business – which is part of UPenn – wrote to Magill demanding an immediate change of leadership.
Ackman on Thursday noted a CNN report, in which a source claimed that Scott Bok, the chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees, was expected on Friday to talk to Magill about possibly stepping down.
Liz Magill, President of the University of Pennsylvania, is facing calls for her to resign after Tuesday’s testimony
Bill Ackman, who is worth $3.5billion, on Thursday celebrated news Magill may be asked to resign, tweeting: ‘One down’
Ackman tweeted: ‘One down.’
He added: ‘There is hope for @Penn. I give this a 95% probability. It is not yet a certainty.’
But another source denied to CNN that Bok and Magill were meeting, and said the board was not close to calling for Magill to step aside.
A spokesperson for Penn said there is no immediate plan for the board to replace Magill.
On Wednesday Magill attempted to clarify her comments, but the damage was done.
On Thursday, as the House Education Committee said they were now investigating the issue further, the board of Wharton – the world’s first business school, founded in 1881 at the University of Pennsylvania – said Magill needed to resign.
In a letter addressed to her, they said leadership of the university needed to change ‘with immediate effect’.
‘As a result of the University leadership’s stated beliefs and collective failure to act, our Board respectfully suggests to you and the Board of Trustees that the University requires new leadership with immediate eﬀect.’
The board, in a letter first obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian, describes their concern about ‘dangerous and toxic culture’ at Penn that they said the University leadership has allowed to exist.
The letter adds that the University leadership ‘does not share the values of our Board.’
Liz Magill, president of University of Pennsylvania, on Wednesday tried to explain her equivocation when asked if calling for the genocide of Jewish people was hate speech
The board, in their letter, said they have held eight sessions since November 16, and drafted a set of resolutions regarding campus conduct and leadership.
The 29 business titans that comprise the board – among them the CEO of American Express’ U.S. banking operation; the CEO of real estate giant Related Companies, the largest landlord in New York City; and the former chair of Johnson & Johnson – said they felt their proposals were ignored.
One of the resolutions they proposed was that Wharton community members will not celebrate murder or genocide, use hate speech, or use language that threatens the physical safety of others. The resolution also said that those who violate these standards will ‘be subject to immediate discipline.’
Magill on Tuesday was asked a ‘yes or no’ question on whether calls for the genocide of Jews counted as hate speech, and repeatedly said it depended on the context.
Her mealy-mouthed answer – and the equally feeble response from the other two – sparked fury, with one donor withdrawing a $100 million grant and many calling for Magill to resign.
The board said in their letter that their suggestions fell on deaf ears.
‘We delivered these Resolutions to you more than two weeks ago. Our Resolutions directly addressed the issue, among other matters, that has now become clear to all: our University chooses to maintain policies that do not protect our students and our community.’
UPenn President Liz Magill said the school had demonstrated its ‘unyielding commitment to combatting antisemitism’ but also refused to categorize calls for the genocide of Jews as harassment or a breach of the school’s code of conduct
In their letter, the board write: ‘As conﬁrmed in your congressional testimony yesterday, the leadership of the University does not share the values of our Board.
‘Nor does it appear to understand the urgency to address the safety of our students on campus and the ongoing reputational damage to the University by the University’s policies and actions.’
On Wednesday, Magill published a groveling video statement attempting to explain her failure to condemn calls for the genocide of Jewish people on campuses.
She said she was not ‘focused’ on the issue, and said she wanted to ‘be clear’ that calls for genocide were ‘evil, plain and simple’ – although she said the blame lay with her university’s policies and the constitution, rather than with her.
Magill said: ‘There was a moment during yesterday’s Congressional hearing on antisemitism when I was asked if a call for the genocide of Jewish people on our campus would violate our policies.
‘In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies – aligned with the U.S. Constitution – which say that speech alone is not punishable.
‘I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil, plain and simple.’
Magill said she hoped to draw a line in the sand, and clarify her position.
‘I want to be clear: a call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so,’ she said.
‘It is intentionally meant to terrify a people who have been subjected to pogroms and hatred for centuries, and were the victims of mass genocide in the Holocaust.
‘In my view it would be harassment or intimidation.’
But, Magill said, it was not officially classed as harassment – a policy she said was outdated and needed review.
Magill pledged to work to update the existing rules.
‘For decades under multiple Penn presidents and consistent with most universities, Penn’s policies have been guided by the Constitution and the law,’ she said.
‘In today’s world, where we are seeing signs of hate proliferating across our campus and our world in a way not seen in years, these policies need to be clarified and evaluated.
‘Penn must initiate a serious and careful look at our policies.’
She concluded that she was ‘committed to a safe, secure and supportive environment so all members of our community can thrive. We can, and we will, get it right.’
Harvard also attempted to limit the damage from remarks by their president, Claudine Gay.
Claudine Gay, president of Harvard, is seen on Tuesday appearing before the House education committee to discuss antisemitism
MIT President Dr. Sally Kornbluth was also grilled for her school’s response to protests. She too failed to outwardly condemn calls for the genocide of Jews
Gay, asked the same question, also equivocated.
On Wednesday, the university published a statement from Gay on X.
‘There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students,’ she said.
‘Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.’
All three said on Tuesday calling for the genocide of Jews was anti-Semitic hate speech but didn’t necessarily break their school rules.
They would act, they said, if such hate speech crossed over into ‘conduct’.
An incredulous Elise Stefanik asked: ‘Conduct being committing genocide?’
Ackman – who gave $26million to Harvard in 2014 – is now calling for the resignation of all three women. Elon Musk agreed that it is time for their departure, and said the hearing crystalizes their liberal bias.
Harvard Hillel, the school’s leading Jewish organization, said it was ‘appalled by the need to state the obvious’.
The Harvard Alumni Association and the school’s Board of Overseers are yet to address Gay’s remarks.
The Hillel said: ‘President Gay’s refusal to draw a line around threatening antisemitic speech as a violation of Harvard’s policies is profoundly shocking given explicit provisions within the conduct code prohibiting this kind of bullying and harassment.
‘We are appalled by the need to state the obvious: A call for genocide against Jews is always a hateful incitement of violence.
‘President Gay’s failure to properly condemn this speech calls into question her ability to protect Jewish students on Harvard’s campus.
‘President Gay’s testimony fails to reassure us that the University is seriously concerned about the anti-Semitic rhetoric pervasive on campus.
‘We call on President Gay to take action against those using threatening speech that violates our community standards.’
The three universities have been roiled by a series of pro-Palestine marches on their campuses in the wake of the October 7 attack, with students blaming Israel for Hamas’ terrorist outrage, and saying the country deserved it.
Some academics have expressed rabidly anti-Israel opinions, and threats have been made against Jewish students on campus.
All three presidents have admitted they were slow to distance themselves from student groups justifying the October 7 massacres.
But they insisted that they wanted to preserve an environment of free speech – and refused, to Stefanik’s fury, to give a ‘yes or no’ answer to questions about condemning certain rhetoric.
‘I am asking, specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?’ asked Stefanik.
Gay told her that it depended on the context.
Stefanik responded that it was ‘the easiest question’, then answered for them: ‘The answer is yes.’
Stefanik pressed Gay over whether Harvard would punish students or applicants who advocate for the murder of Jews.
Elise Stefanik, a Republican representing New York, grilled the three university presidents on Tuesday
Bill Ackman said all three women must resign ‘in disgrace’ after their testimony
Ackman said he was receiving calls from Harvard donors and alumni asking if the testimony was fake
Outrage: There are growing calls for all three women to resign
Gay replied: ‘That type of hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me.’
She said the university had ‘robust policies’ that hold individuals accountable when speech crosses into conduct, such as bullying, harassment or intimidation.
‘We embrace a commitment to free expression and give a wide berth to free expression even to views that are objectionable, outrageous and offensive,’ Gay said.
At one point, Gay said: ‘I’ve sought to confront hate while preserving free expression. This is difficult work, and I know that I have not always gotten it right.’
But Stefanik said their answers were ‘unacceptable’, and demanded all three resign.
Ackman said he was horrified by the testimony.
‘This could be the most extraordinary testimony ever elicited in the Congress, certainly on the topic of genocide,’ he wrote on X.
‘The presidents’ answers reflect the profound educational, moral and ethical failures that pervade certain of our elite educational institutions due in large part to their failed leadership.’
He said that the trio’s answers would be unacceptable in the business world.
‘If a CEO of one of our companies gave a similar answer, he or she would be toast within the hour,’ he said.
‘Why has antisemitism exploded on campus and around the world?
‘Because of leaders like Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth who believe genocide depends on the context.
Palestinian supporters gathered at Harvard University to show their support for Gaza, and their hatred for Israel, at a rally in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14
Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee triggered fury by writing – on October 7 – that Israel was ‘entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.’ President Claudine Gay has been heavily criticized for failing to appropriately condemn the students who backed the statement
‘To think that these are the leaders of Ivy League institutions that are charged with the responsibility to educate our best and brightest.’
His criticism of Gay comes just days after the billionaire posted an open letter on X accusing Harvard of discriminating against ‘straight white men’ and railing against the university’s equity and inclusion efforts.
The Jewish student organization, Harvard Hillel, said that Gay’s ‘refusal’ to ‘draw a line’ on threatening antisemitic speech is ‘profoundly shocking.’
Harvard Hillel said that they questioned the president’s ‘ability to protect Jewish students on Harvard’s campus.’
‘We are appalled by the need to state the obvious: A call for genocide against Jews is always a hateful incitement of violence. President Gay’s failure to properly condemn this speech calls into question her ability to protect Jewish students on Harvard’s campus,’ the Harvard Hillel said.
‘Chants to ‘globalize the intifada,’ an endorsement of violent terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli civilians, and ‘from the river to the sea,’ an eliminationist slogan intended to deprive Jews of their right to self-determination in Israel, have become tragically routine at Harvard.’
Newly surfaced video shows a confrontation at a recent demonstration on Harvard University’s campus, where pro-Palestinian protesters surrounded a student chanting ‘shame’
Protesters encircle a man (with arms up), moving through the yard during the October 18 protest at Harvard University, holding up keffiyehs (scarfs) before he slips into a nearby building
Magill, the UPenn president, was questioned over her school’s participation in a ‘Palestine Writes Festival’ in September.
A complaint filed with the Education Department against Penn cites the festival as a catalyst for antisemitic incidents on campus. Speakers included several with a history of making antisemitic remarks, such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.
She said antisemitic speech at the event was ‘abhorrent’ to her and that the institution put safety precautions into place.
‘Why in the world would you host someone like that on your campus?’ asked Jim Banks, a Republican congressman for Indiana.
‘Antisemitism has no place at Penn,’ Magill began to answer.
Banks interrupted, and asked: ‘Why did you invite Roger Waters?’
She concluded: ‘I think canceling that conference would have been very inconsistent with academic freedom and free expression despite the fact that the views of some of the people who came to that conference I find very, very objectionable because of their antisemitism.’