Updated Nov 23, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Ex-State Dept. official charged with hate crime after food cart vendor rants

The halal food cart whose employee was racially abused by Stuart Seldowitz. Photo: Islam Dogru/Anadolu via Getty Images

A former U.S. government official was arrested after being captured on video spewing Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian language at a street food vendor in Manhattan on multiple occasions.

Driving the news: The charges against Stuart Seldowitz include "hate crime/stalking," second-degree aggravated harassment and additional stalking charges, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed to Axios on Thursday.

  • Seldowitz worked for the National Security Council under the Obama administration following a State Department career that spanned five presidencies, according to a 2022 press release from Gotham Government Relations, with which Seldowitz was later affiliated.
  • Seldowitz did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment. He previously confirmed to CNN that it was indeed him in the videos and expressed regret to the New York Times about things he said to the vendor, but denied being Islamophobic.

Backstory: Seldowitz appeared in multiple videos that appeared to be taken on different days.

  • In one video posted to X, Seldowitz repeatedly calls the vendor "ignorant" and makes derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad.
  • In another video, Seldowitz threatens to "put big signs here saying this guy believes in Hamas" and called the vendor "a terrorist."
  • "If we killed 4,000 Palestinian children, you know what? It wasn't enough," Seldowitz added.
  • "Why should I go? It's a free country," Seldowitz said in a third video. The vendor can be repeatedly heard asking Seldowitz to leave.

What they're saying: Mohamed Attia, the managing director of the Street Vendor Project advocacy group, posted on X Tuesday that Seldowitz had been harassing the vendor for two weeks.

  • In the videos, Seldowitz alleged the vendor had expressed support for Hamas. The videos, which have spread widely on X and TikTok, do not show the vendor making any such statements.

The big picture: The videos have gained traction online as the Israel-Hamas war has sowed divisions among Americans and prompted fears of a surge in hate crimes against Jews and Muslims.

Worth noting: Gotham Government Relations said in a statement posted on X Tuesday that it had "ended all affiliation" with Seldowitz and that he had not worked for the company for years.

  • David Schwartz, the firm's president, said in a statement provided to Axios that Seldowitz was never a registered lobbyist for the company.
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