Congressional Comments

Gottheimer responds to unprovoked attack from Tlaib

Yesterday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) was targeted by the Intercept in a lengthy piece, knocking him for, among other things, his support for Israel, his role in the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus and willingness to interact with Republicans, and for a meeting he and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) held with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in February to discuss why Rep. Tlaib’s past antisemitic comments were hurtful. In January on Twitter, Rep. Tlaib had charged that pro-Israel members, ”forgot what country they represent,” widely perceived as an accusation of dual-loyalty.

In an interview with the Intercept, Rep. Tlaib alleged that during the February meeting, Gottheimer acted as “a bully,” who “had a goal of breaking me down.” Tlaib claims that Gottheimer brought along a binder of statements she made and “confus[ed] me with other colleagues.”

Rep. Luria, who was in this meeting, disputes Tlaib’s characterization. The meeting was a “cordial and professional interchange between all of us,” Rep. Luria tells Jewish Insider. “My recollection of the meeting is that we went into it with good intentions to try to build a personal relationship so that we could talk about these issues,” says Luria. “And the meeting was cordial. We did not agree on policy issues. I mean specifically on BDS, [but] I remember the meeting ending well. I don’t have any recollection of [Rep. Gottheimer] bullying or being rude or anything like that.” Luria recalls that Rep. Gottheimer “gave her a hug on the way out and said, ‘thanks for coming and [I] look forward to meeting with you again.’”

Rep. Gottheimer tells us, “Rep. Rashida Tlaib and I do not agree on everything. But we’re both Democrats, and all healthy political parties are host to a range of views. I have a very different recollection of the meeting she discussed in that piece. I recall Rep. Luria and me honestly explaining how hurtful it is to have your loyalty to America questioned and how, historically, that has harmed the well-being of the Jewish people — those whose loyalty was put into question in the first place. Rep. Elaine Luria and I held that meeting together, at the leadership’s request, in a good faith effort to bring unity and understanding in an increasingly upsetting situation. In it, we shared some of what we believed were antisemitic statements made by multiple members of Congress. We had what we believed, at the time, was a mutually productive conversation. I’m disappointed by the misleading way this attempt to bridge differences was characterized.”

Worth noting: It’s highly unusual for a member of Congress to launch an unprovoked attack against a member of their own party through the press. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined in on the seemingly coordinated campaign against Gottheimer tweeting yesterday, “What’s funny is that there are Dems that do act like the Tea Party – but they’re conservative.” 

In another cheap shot against Gottheimer, the Intercept wrote “This spring, he was one of just a handful of Democrats at a private retreat on Sea Island, Georgia, hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, mingling with Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other Republican heavyweights.”

According to a copy of the AEI schedule, Gottheimer spoke on a late Saturday afternoon panel alongside fellow Democratic Representatives Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). Pence addressed the nonpartisan free-market conference on Saturday morning, Kushner on Thursday night and Pompeo on Friday afternoon. That Gottheimer ‘mingled’ with those Trump officials is inaccurate, but that didn’t stop Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from further tweeting that Gottheimer went to “fundraise $ w/ Mike Pence.”