Summer Lee cancels appearance at CAIR banquet featuring antisemitic speakers

Her decision comes after leading Democrats in the state, including Gov. Josh Shapiro, criticized the event

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) arrives to the U.S. Capitol for the last votes of the week on Friday, January 12, 2024.

Amid fierce backlash, Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) announced on Tuesday that she had canceled her planned appearance this weekend at a fundraising banquet for a leading Muslim advocacy group featuring several speakers who have espoused antisemitic and homophobic views.

“I have and continue to condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia everywhere it arises,” she said in a statement shared on Tuesday morning. “To prevent the Muslim community from being the target of any more politically motivated Islamophobia and to ensure my Jewish and LGBTQ+ constituents know their concerns are heard, I will not be attending this event any longer.” 

The about-face comes just a day after Jewish Insider first reported on past comments from three speakers scheduled to deliver remarks at an event hosted by the Philadelphia branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Saturday, including one who appeared to celebrate Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel and another who has called Israelis “demons” who lie to “cover their horns.”

Lee, a vocal critic of Israel now preparing for a tough primary fight, had faced intense pressure to pull out of the banquet from a growing number of prominent Jewish leaders and elected officials in Pennsylvania who vocally condemned the event on Monday, including Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, and the chairs of Pennsylvania’s Jewish Legislative Caucus..

Bhavini Patel, a top Democratic challenger to Lee, had also called on the congresswoman to cancel her scheduled appearance as a guest of honor “and apologize for agreeing to stand” alongside the speakers, she said in a statement on Tuesday morning.

Before her cancellation, CAIR-Philadelphia issued a statement on Monday claiming that the speakers’ comments had been taken “out of context” and were “being exploited by ill-intentioned circles.” 

The group, whose national executive director has faced condemnation for celebrating Hamas, added that it was “excited to hear from” Lee and expected its guest list “to only grow in response to these attacks.”

CAIR did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Lee’s cancellation on Tuesday.

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