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Menacing Meme

GOP congressman Scott Perry shares antisemitic meme on social media

The Pennsylvania lawmaker removed the image, which depicted a scheming group of stereotypically Jewish bankers with hooked noses and thick beards, after JI reached out to his campaign

Lenin Nolly/Sipa USA via AP Images

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) holds a news conference on June 19, 2020 in Washington D.C.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) approvingly shared an antisemitic meme on his campaign’s Facebook page earlier this week, underscoring a broader pattern in which the Pennsylvania Republican has espoused conspiracy theories and used inflammatory rhetoric while in office.

“Says it all…,” Perry wrote on Tuesday in a comment he posted above the meme, which invokes several antisemitic tropes. The image depicts a scheming cabal of stereotypically Jewish bankers with hooked noses and thick beards gathered around a Monopoly board that sits atop the hunching backs of a group of naked figures.

The meme is also framed by two ominous lines of text. “If the people stand…,” it states, “…the game is over.”

The Perry campaign removed the post on Friday afternoon after Jewish Insider reached out for comment. “After receiving your inquiry, learning the history of the image, and contacting several members of the Jewish community (some who were familiar with it and some who were not) out of grave concern that it is considered antisemitic — we removed it immediately,” the campaign said in an email to JI. 

The image, which has long been widely denounced as antisemitic, originates from a 2012 wall mural painted in London by the Los Angeles street artist Mear One, whose real name is Kalen Ockerman. The mural, called “Freedom for Humanity,” set off an uproar when it debuted and was soon removed.

While Ockerman has denied that his painting relied on antisemitic imagery, he has acknowledged that “the banker group” portrayed in the mural “is made up of Jewish and white Anglos.”

The painting — a meme of which has circulated online for years — has continued to stir controversy in England as well as the United States.

In 2018, Jeremy Corbyn, the former British Labour Party leader who has faced accusations of antisemitism, apologized for defending the mural in a Facebook comment at the time of its removal, claiming that he “did not look more closely at the image,” which he described as “deeply disturbing and antisemitic.”

In 2020, Louisiana state Rep. Danny McCormick drew a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League after the GOP lawmaker posted the image to his social media accounts and soon deleted it amid widespread criticism. In 2021, meanwhile, another Republican state lawmaker, James Spillane of New Hampshire, apologized for amplifying the meme on his Parler page, drawing a formal admonishment from the state’s legislative ethics committee.

Perry’s decision to post the meme is just the latest example of his penchant for attracting controversy over extreme remarks and social media activity.

As recently as last month, for instance, Perry, a member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, faced backlash for comments in which he claimed that “replacement theory is real,” endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory often alleging that Jewish elites are engaged in an effort to supplant the white race with non-white immigrants.

“They added white to it to stop everybody from talking about it,” Perry said in his comments during a lawmaker briefing on campus antisemitism in early May.

Perry, who has previously espoused replacement theory rhetoric, also claimed in the closed-door briefing that the Ku Klux Klan is the “the military wing of the Democratic Party,” which he called “decidedly, unabashedly racist and antisemitic.”

In a statement to CNN, which obtained a recording of his remarks, Perry said “the radical Left twists facts in order to silence conversation about its own crimes” and that “it debases and smears instead of engaging in debate on merits.”

The 62-year-old congressman had earlier drawn criticism for comments likening the modern-day Democratic Party to Nazi Germany in a 2021 speech that was condemned by several Jewish groups in Pennsylvania.

In recent months, Perry has also faced scrutiny from the pro-Israel community for voting in April against supplemental funding for Israel. In response to the vote, AIPAC’s political action committee, which has endorsed his campaign, halted fundraising for Perry on its online political portal — along with other GOP lawmakers who had opposed the assistance to Israel amid its war with Hamas.

Perry defended his vote in a statement to JI last month, alleging that the funding bill “also allocates billions to Hamas,” while calling himself “one of the most vehement defenders in Congress of the State of Israel.”

Perry, a six-term incumbent who represents a district in central Pennsylvania that election forecasters rate as “lean Republican,” is facing a Democratic challenger, Janelle Stetson, in the November election. 

Stelson, a former local news anchor who has embraced pro-Israel positions during the campaign, has in recent weeks sharply criticized Perry for his vote against the Israel aid bill while accusing him of having “a pretty disturbing history of antisemitism.”

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