Ex-Obama admin official recorded taunting NYC food vendor with Islamophobic language

A former national security adviser in the Obama administration has been arrested and charged with harassment and stalking in connection with anti-Islamic statements made to a man at his Manhattan workplace, police said.

Stuart Seldowitz, 64, also of Manhattan, was captured in a series of videos harassing and verbally abusing a New York City food cart vendor with Islamophobic language.

The New York Police Department said Wednesday that Seldowitz was charged with second-degree aggravated harassment and three counts of stalking, one of which is stalking as a hate crime.

He is accused of approaching the 24-year-old at his workplace multiple times and making anti-Islamic statements, the NYPD said.

A person on X, the platform formally known as Twitter, posted video of Seldowitz taunting the cart operator on the Upper East Side.

In one clip that appeared to be shot at night, Seldowitz asked the vendor if he had raped his daughter “like Mohammed” did.

The vendor politely asked Seldowitz to leave.

“Why should I go?” Seldowitz asked. “I’m standing here. I’m an American. I have freedom. It’s a free country. It’s not like Egypt.”

In another clip that appeared to be shot in daytime hours, Seldowitz called the vendor a terrorist and said: “It’s not my fault you pray to a criminal.”

“You support killing little children,” Seldowitz told the vendor.

“You kill children, not me,” the vendor said.

“If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what? It wasn’t enough,” Seldowitz said after telling the man he had “no right to be on the sidewalk.”

In a second daytime shot, Seldowitz again sought to mock the vendor before a bystander intervened and prompted him to leave.

Seldowitz did not immediately return messages from NBC News on Wednesday seeking comment.

But in an interview with NBC New York, he said the incidents began when he was simply trying to make small talk.

“This whole thing started when I innocently asked him if he was Egyptian and he said yes,'” Seldowitz said. “I said, ‘This must be a tough time to be an Egyptian in New York.’ “

Seldowitz went on to explain he’s sensitive to the tensions caused by the Israel-Hamas war. He added the vendor triggered him by allegedly saying he backed Hamas.

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“I said you’re OK with the raping of women, the killing of children, the taking of hostages and the killing of 1,200 people in Israel?” Seldowitz told the news station. “And he said, ‘Yes, it was all for Palestine,’ and that’s what got me upset.”

New York City Council member Julie Menin, who represents the neighborhood where the incidents unfolded, said she reported Seldowitz’s verbal abuse to police.

“This is vile hate speech and harassment and truly abhorrent,” she said in a statement. “There is no place for hate in our community and city.”

Seldowitz had been a consultant for Gotham Government Relations, and the lobbying firm said it has “ended all affiliations with” him.

“The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm,” Gotham Government Relations said in a statement.

The videos of Seldowitz come as law enforcement officials across America have voiced their concerns that tensions in the Middle East could spill over to Jewish, Muslim, Arab and South Asian Americans.

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. climbed 388% in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks last month, compared to the same period last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a group focused on fighting antisemitism and extremism.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said last month that requests from Muslims for help and reports of bias also spiked across the U.S. from Oct. 7 to Oct. 24, compared to any 16-day stretch last year.


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