(JTA) — Former President Barack Obama has called out celebrities who post anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online. calling them “dangerous” while campaigning in Pittsburgh, the site of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history.
Fighting for Democrats in a close statewide election next week, Obama has denounced the recent assault on Paul Pelosi, the husband of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, by an alleged attacker who spread lies about the 2020 election and anti-Semitic theories. and warned that political leaders who shed light on such violence put others at risk. He was referring to a number of conservatives who sought to cast doubt on the veracity of reports about the attack, or who laughed at it.
But he said the dangers of political speech extend beyond politicians.
“Whether out of malice or ignorance, we have recently seen major celebrities post vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online,” Obama said. “And you don’t have to be a history student to understand how dangerous that is and how unacceptable that is.”
Obama appeared to be referring to a list of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories recently circulated by popular black artists and athletes, including rapper Kanye West, NBA star Kyrie Irving and former NFL linebacker KJ Wright.
“I don’t know when we decided we were just going to believe everything we read on the internet,” he said. “Here’s a tip for you. If you read or see something online that has a big theory about how a particular group, whether black or white, Jewish, Catholic, immigrant or gay, if you read or see someone say they’re the cause of all your problems, then it’s safe to say they’re trash. This is a lie. It is a dangerous poison.
Obama did not mention the 2018 massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue complex. Last month, the community commemorated the fourth anniversary of the attack, in which 11 Jews were murdered by an alleged white supremacist who posted anti-Semitic content online.
Obama is bombarding swing states ahead of what could be a close midterm election on Tuesday. He was campaigning Saturday for Democrats, including Josh Shapiro, the Jewish attorney general who is running for governor of Pennsylvania; John Fetterman, candidate for the United States Senate; and House candidates Summer Lee and Chris Deluzio.
Several of the races are notable for their Jewish involvement. Shapiro has put his Jewish identity at the center of his campaign, while his rival, Doug Mastriano, has allied himself with the anti-Semitic founder of the Gab social network, where the alleged Tree of Life shooter announced his intention to attack the synagogue. Shapiro’s Jewish day school, where he sends his children, also drew attention because Mastriano mocked it, and the Democratic candidate, as elitist.
Meanwhile, Fetterman is in a close race against Mehmet Oz, the famed doctor who has the backing of former President Donald Trump. Oz counted among its prominent supporters the famous Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, until Boteach announced that he had changed his mind and now saw the Oz campaign as a “tragedy for the Jewish people”. (Boteach’s daughter sued Oz this week, alleging breach of contract over a list of donors she shared.)
And Lee, a progressive, is the subject of millions of dollars in negative spending by the political action committee associated with AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. The group spent $2 million in a failed effort to defeat her in the May primary and last week spent another $1 million to defeat her in next week’s contest, marking the new PAC’s first foray. , United Democracy Project, in a general election.