NYC Mayor Eric Adams accuses WaPo of antisemitism over Jewish donor influence story

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the paper for ‘inferring a secret cabal of Jews is using wealth & power to influence governments, the media, the business world & academia’

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams attends a memorial for the 30th anniversary of the killing of teenager Ari Halberstam on the Brooklyn Bridge on March 1, 2024, in New York City.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said on Monday that a Washington Post report suggesting that a group of wealthy Jewish donors used its influence to push him to send the NYPD to clear out anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University’s campus was “antisemitic in its core.”

“I think that article was antisemitic in its core. The mere fact that someone is indicating that we waited as we were supposed to get calls from the college presidents to tell us when to come in. We was clear long before that call took place with those who were advocating their concern about the increase in antisemitism. We took action on college campuses,” he told FOX5 “Good Day New York” morning show on Monday. 

“I think the mere fact that some article is saying some clandestine group came together to pressure us, it’s a lie. It did not happen. We meet with all groups throughout this city of different breakdowns and ethnicities,” Adams continued. “That is who I am and I’m going to continue to do so. I thought there was a hint, a hint of antisemitism that was written in that article.”

Adams’ comments were echoed by the Anti-Defamation League, which condemned The Washington Post over the story Monday afternoon, writing on X that the paper should be “ashamed of publishing an article that unabashedly (and almost entirely on anonymous sources) plays into antisemitic tropes by inferring a secret cabal of Jews is using wealth & power to influence governments, the media, the business world & academia.”

Asked for reaction to the criticism, a Washington Post spokesperson declined to comment. 

The article, published last Thursday, alleges that a group of prominent business leaders — all of those named are Jewish — voicing their concerns about growing antisemitism on college campuses in a WhatsApp group chat. The article alleged that the WhatsApp chat “offer[ed] a window into how some prominent individuals have wielded their money and power in an effort to shape American views of the Gaza war, as well as the actions of academic, business and political leaders — including New York’s mayor.”

The group chat eventually led to a Zoom call with Adams, where members mused about how they could advocate for Columbia University leadership to allow NYPD forces onto campus to clear out the encampment. Days earlier, protesters’ antisemitic harassment led the Biden White House to condemn “physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community” taking place at Columbia.

The story claimed that the group “pressed” Adams to “send police to disperse pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University,” though the mayor had already been openly pleading for days with Columbia University President Minouche Shafik to allow the NYPD on campus. 

A staffer for billionaire real estate mogul Barry Sternlicht set up the group chat, which had reportedly grown to over 100 members from across the business community, in the wake of Oct. 7. The report suggests that the group chat’s “activism has stretched beyond New York, touching the highest levels of the Israeli government, the U.S. business world and elite universities.”

While not all of the members of the chat are Jewish, the only ones mentioned in the piece are. Aside from Sternlicht, the Post references Kind snack company founder Daniel Lubetzky, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, billionaire businessman Len Blavatnik, real estate investor Joseph Sitt, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Dell founder Michael Dell, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and businessman Josh Kushner. 

Sternlicht’s staffer wrote to the group shortly after Oct. 7 that the mission of the chat, which was disbanded earlier this month, was to “help win the war” of U.S. public opinion while Israel worked to “win the physical war.” The article described the group’s work focused on “funding an information campaign against Hamas” and highlighted Sternlicht’s “$50 million anti-Hamas media campaign with various Wall Street and Hollywood billionaires.”

The story was co-bylined by Hannah Natanson and Emmanuel Felton, the latter of whom retweeted a post from The 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones earlier this month that Black Americans experience more hate crimes than Jewish Americans and shouldn’t be compared to one another.

Fabien Levy, deputy mayor for communications, was one of the first officials to condemn the Washington Post for the reporters’ coverage and line of questioning, saying in a statement Thursday: “Let’s be very clear: Both times the NYPD entered Columbia University’s campus — on April 18th and April 30th — were in response to specific written requests from Columbia University to do so. Prior to these operations, Mayor Adams consistently stated that Columbia is a private institution on private property and that assistance would be provided only upon request.”

“Any suggestion that other considerations were involved in the decision-making process is completely false, and the insinuation that Jewish donors secretly plotted to influence government operations is an all too familiar antisemitic trope that the Washington Post should be ashamed to ask about, let alone normalize in print,” Levy said. 

Levy went on to condemn the Post for the article’s framing and language choices in a series of posts on X, writing that the paper and “others can make editorial decisions to disagree with the decisions by universities to ask the NYPD to clear unlawful encampments on campuses, but saying Jews ‘wielded their money & power in an effort to shape American views’ is offensive on so many levels.”

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