Second gentleman Doug Emhoff decried an “epidemic of hate” facing the United States as he convened a roundtable Wednesday at the White House on rising antisemitism.
“Let me be clear: Words matter,” Emhoff said. “People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them.”
Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Harris, is the first Jewish spouse of a vice president.
The event has been in the works for some time, but it has taken on increased resonance in the wake of former president Donald Trump’s recent dinner at his Florida estate with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, both of whom have advocated antisemitic views.
Emhoff met with representatives of more than a dozen groups to discuss the issue more broadly.
“I will not remain silent,” he said. “I am proud to be Jewish. I’m proud to live openly as a Jew. I am not afraid. I refuse to be afraid.”
Emhoff also spoke about his family experiences.
“On days like today, I think back to Ellis Island,” he said. “I think about my family members, and I think of the promise of America. That a young boy from Brooklyn — whose family fled persecution — could be sitting here today as the first second gentleman of the United States in the White House.”
On Friday, in a tweet seemingly directed in part at Trump, who has not disavowed his dinner guests, President Biden wrote: “The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity.”
Last week, Elon Musk said he suspended Ye’s Twitter account after he shared an image of a swastika combined with the Star of David. The Twitter suspension was part of the continued fallout for Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after he began making frequent antisemitic comments online and in interviews, which also caused him to lose multiple lucrative business deals.
Other participants joining Emhoff were Susan Rice, the White House domestic policy council director; Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism; and Keisha Lance Bottoms, senior adviser to the president for public engagement and the former Atlanta mayor.
The gathering also included 13 Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and Jewish on Campus.
“President Biden, Vice President Harris have met Holocaust survivors. I’ve kept in touch with the survivors. I’ve shared messages of hope and strength. For me today, this is not the end of the conversation, it’s just the beginning of the conversation,” Emhoff said.
Eugene Scott contributed to this report.