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Ahead of Mayorkas impeachment vote, Biden spokesman accuses key Republican of antisemitism

Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) reportedly described the Homeland Security secretary as a ‘reptile’ in a private Republican meeting on Tuesday

Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Ahead of a House vote on Tuesday on impeaching Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, a key House Republican faces accusations that he invoked antisemitic tropes targeting the Jewish cabinet secretary.

Politico reported that House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) — whose committee led the impeachment effort — said during a Republican Conference meeting on Monday that, “This reptile [Mayorkas] has no balls to resign,” citing two lawmakers who heard the comments.

Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, suggested the comments could be antisemitic in a social media post.

“Now, the GOP Chairman leading [the impeachment] makes another vile comment, calling Mayorkas — who is Jewish — a ‘reptile,’” Sams said in response to Green’s alleged comments.

Sams attached a screenshot of the American Jewish Committee’s “Glossary of Antisemitic Terms” stating that comparing Jews to creatures can be “a common form of coded antisemitism,” including depictions of Jews as “reptilian men.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) described Green’s alleged comment as perpetuating a “repulsive canard that Jews are subhuman” which is “unacceptable anywhere, especially in Congress.”

“If the [House Republicans] won’t fund nonprofit security or Holocaust education, at least refrain from spewing antisemitic venom to justify a sham impeachment,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

A Homeland Security Committee spokesperson pushed back.

“Anyone who has watched the Secretary testify before any committee knows he is skilled at evading questions and accountability,” the spokesperson told Jewish Insider. “Chairman Green made these comments in a comparison with President Nixon — referring to their sly abilities to evade accountability and the truth. Insinuations that these comments mean anything more are just desperate attempts to distract from the Secretary’s impeachable offenses.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the comments could be antisemitic, even if not intended as such.

“People in positions of power, including members of Congress, need to exercise extraordinary caution in our charged environment,” Greenblatt told JI. “While Rep. [Green] may not have intended to slander Secretary Mayorkas, dehumanizing him could be seen as an antisemitic slur. Whatever the case, it’s problematic and all should endeavor to do better.“

The AJC has been advocating against Mayorkas’ impeachment.

The group’s senior director of policy and political affairs, Julie Rayman, sent a letter to House members on Wednesday arguing that “some rhetoric around the impeachment proceedings has echoed the Great Replacement conspiracy,” citing assertions that Mayorkas is “purposefully allowing increased numbers of migrants to enter the border in order to alter the demographics of the United States.”

Rayman said that the rhetoric is “dangerous to Jews, Latinos, and all vulnerable minorities” and called Mayorkas “a strong and reliable friend of the Jewish community” who has helped make the community “demonstrably safer” in the wake of Oct. 7.

Rayman also made the case that the impeachment “is based on differences of opinion on immigration and border policy, rather than misconduct,” and that it would make it more difficult to achieve progress on immigration.

A coalition of 17 mostly liberal-leaning Jewish groups, led by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and HIAS, issued a statement on Monday similarly arguing that the Mayorkas impeachment has been based on the antisemitic “great replacement” conspiracy theory.

“As Jewish organizations grappling with the real-world consequences of rising hate and extremism, we are deeply concerned that the effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will further normalize dangerous antisemitic, white supremacist, and anti-immigrant conspiracy theories,” the statement reads.

The impeachment vote failed, with Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Ken Buck (R-CO) opposing impeachment. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) flipped his vote to a “No” at the last minute to allow the House to reconsider the motion; it will likely pass if Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was absent on Tuesday, returns to Washington.

House Republicans vowed to bring the measure up for another vote when they had sufficient support.

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