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Mondaire Jones defends criticism of McCarthy meeting with Hasidic leaders

The Democratic congressional candidate defends his online post, which was criticized for being disrespectful to the Jewish community

Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court with other Democratic members to announce legislation to expand the number of seats of Supreme Court judges in Washington on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) is facing scrutiny over an ambiguously worded post on X, formerly known as Twitter, criticizing ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for meeting with Orthodox Jewish leaders in a Hudson Valley swing district where Jones is now seeking to reclaim his old congressional seat.

“Well this was a waste of everyone’s time,” Jones wrote just after McCarthy lost his bid to remain as Speaker on Tuesday afternoon, sharing a photo of a yarmulke-clad McCarthy courting support from Hasidic leaders last March in Rockland County alongside Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), whom Jones hopes to challenge in next year’s general election.

The tweet drew immediate backlash on X from commentators who voiced skepticism over what Jones’ message had meant to imply — with some critics denouncing his comment as disrespectful to the Jewish community.

In a statement shared with Jewish Insider on Tuesday evening, Jones defended the tweet and suggested that critics were misreading his remarks.

“As I stated in my tweet, Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly wasted the time of Hasidic leaders in the Lower Hudson Valley,” Jones insisted. “He has never delivered for communities in Rockland and will continue to fail to deliver for Rocklanders because he’s no longer Speaker. By contrast, I have delivered for all communities in Rockland and will continue that track record upon my return to Congress.”

In recent months, McCarthy has made several pilgrimages to the Hudson Valley as he has sought to build relationships with Orthodox community members in Rockland County, who were largely credited with propelling Lawler, 37, to an upset victory over former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) last cycle.

Rockland County, which for now sits entirely within Lawler’s House district, is home to the largest Jewish population per capita of any county in the U.S.

Jones, 36, has said he “fully” expects to win strong support from Jewish voters in the district, which covers three-quarters of the redrawn seat he vacated last cycle to mount an unsuccessful reelection campaign in New York City.

“When I won my primary in 2020, I did so with overwhelming and broad-based support from our diverse and dynamic Jewish communities here in the 17th District,” Jones said in a statement to JI last May, two months before he launched his comeback campaign. “Now, having been a leader in Congress, I’ve got an even stronger record to run on.”

Jones, who faces two Democratic primary rivals, is favored for the nomination to oppose Lawler next year in a pivotal New York House race that could ultimately help determine the majority.

In an interview with JI this summer, the former congressman bristled at Lawler’s efforts to shore up support within the Orthodox Jewish community, which represents a key voting bloc that could prove decisive in a competitive race.

“Mike Lawler is competing so aggressively for support in that particular community that he brought Kevin McCarthy to New Square,” Jones said in July, referring to a Hasidic village in the district. “But I’ve got a record of delivering for all communities in this district and look forward to having that conversation on the campaign trail.”

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