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‘Epidemic of hate’ exists in US, can’t be normalized

WASHINGTON (AP) — Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, says a rise in antisemitism in the United States shows that an “epidemic of hate” exists in the country and cannot be normalized.

Emhoff, who is Jewish, was leading a White House discussion on the issue Wednesday with Jewish leaders representing the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox denominations. They will also discuss efforts to combat hate.

“Right now, there is an epidemic of hate facing our country,” the second gentleman says in portions of his remarks released in advance by the White House. “Let me be clear: Words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them.”

He says such attitudes should not become acceptable.

“We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts,” Emhoff says. “We must not stay silent. There is no either-or. There are no two sides. Everyone must be against this.”

The roundtable, at which various White House officials also will participate, follows a surge in anti-Jewish vitriol spread by public figures, including a famous rapper and other prominent people.

Former President Donald Trump recently hosted Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust-denying white supremacist, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. The rapper Ye — formerly known as Kanye West — expressed love for Adolf Hitler in an interview. Basketball star Kyrie Irving appeared to promote an antisemitic film on social media. Neo-Nazi trolls are clamoring to return to Twitter as new CEO Elon Musk grants “amnesty” to suspended accounts.

Emhoff, the first Jewish person among the president, vice president and their spouses, has become increasingly outspoken about growing bias toward adherents of the Jewish faith, and hate at large, in the United States. He has said what is happening is “painful.”

“For me, this is not the end. This is just the beginning of this conversation.,” Emhoff says in his prepared remarks. “And as long as I have this microphone, I am going to speak out against hate, bigotry, and lies.”

He says he thinks about Ellis Island, his relatives and “the promise of America.”

“That a young boy from Brooklyn, who’s family fled persecution, could be sitting here today as the first second gentleman of the United States in the White House,” Emhoff says.

The White House said participants in the roundtable include the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Agudath, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, American Jewish Committee, Orthodox Union, Jewish on Campus, National Council of Jewish Women, Hillel, Secure Community Network, Religious Action Center, Anti-Defamation League, Integrity First for America and American Friends of Lubavitch.

Among participating White House officials are senior presidential advisers Susan Rice and Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.