Ex-Obama aide arrested after racial abuse of Muslim food truck vendor

Stuart Seldowitz has been arrested by New York City Police Department officials on multiple charges

Michelle Del Rey
Thursday 23 November 2023 01:42 GMT
Former Obama official racially abuses Halal food vendor in NYC

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A former top Obama aide has been arrested by New York City Police Department officials after he racially abused a food vendor multiple times while speaking about the war between Israel and Hamas.

A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed to The Independent that Stuart Seldowitz, 64, was taken into custody on Wednesday on charges including aggravated harassment, hate crime, and stalking.

A hate crime probe into the incidents is ongoing, the spokesperson said.

Videos of Stuart M Seldowitz berating the vendor, 24-year-old Mohamed Hussein, at Adam Halal food cart began circulating the internet this week. In the footage, he can be heard saying, “We killed 4,000 Palestinian kids. You know what? It wasn’t enough”.

Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported that approximately 5,000 Palestinian children have been killed in the war, which started on 7 October after Hamas launched a series of attacks in Israel resulting in the deaths of about 1,200 individuals, mostly civilians.

When the worker told the man to go, he responded by making insulting comments about the Prophet Muhammad. He then proceeded to call the worker a “terrorist”.

Former White House and State Department officail Stuart Seldowitz admitted to being the man caught on video delivering a tirade of racist abuse to a New York food vendor
Former White House and State Department officail Stuart Seldowitz admitted to being the man caught on video delivering a tirade of racist abuse to a New York food vendor (Twitter: Itslaylas)

Ever since the attacks surface on social media, Mr Seldowitz has been fired from his most recent job as the chair of foreign affairs at Gotham Government Relations, a New York City lobbying firm.

He previously served as the deputy director/senior political officer in the US Department of State’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1999 to 2003. In the Obama administration, he worked as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate.

Mr Hussein told The Independent: “I was terrified, I just kept quiet.”

He told Vice News he’d been on the receiving end of three of Mr Seldowitz’s rants. His employer, Islam Moustafa, also came in contact with the former Obama aide, as did another employee.

After the rants, he toldVice News he didn’t feel like smiling while continuing to do his job. When one employee called the police, officers reportedly told him that the incident was “normal”.

Speaking to The New York Times, Mr Seldowitz said he regretted making the comments. He told the outlet that he is not Islamophobic.

“I’ve worked with Muslims,” he said. “I have many people who are Muslims and Arabs and so on, who know me very well and who know me very well and who know that I’m not prejudiced against them.”

Still, the incident has generated much support for the vendor from local New Yorkers.

On Wednesday, a crowd gathered around the food cart.

People from “all walks of life” stopped by for a meal on the corner of 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue to take “a stand against anti-Muslim hate,” according to a statement posted on X, previously known as Twitter, by the Street Vendor Project, an advocacy organisation working to better the lives of food merchants.

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