A lobbying group has cut ties with an ex-adviser to former President Barack Obama after videos surfaced that show the man making Islamophobic comments and threats to a food cart employee in New York City.
The videos, posted on X (formerly Twitter) by a Columbia University student, show Stuart Seldowitz asking someone off camera, “Did you rαpe your daughter like Muhammad did?” and saying that killing 4,000 Palestinian children “wasn’t enough.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Gotham announced on Twitter that it had cut ties with Seldowitz.
“Gotham Government Relations has ended all affiliation with Stuart Seldowitz, an individual who hasn’t contributed to our work in years. The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm,” the statement said. His page has also been removed from the firm’s website.
Neither Gotham nor Seldowitz responded to VICE News’ requests for comment.
A New York police spokesperson said police are aware of the videos and are “monitoring the situation.”
In one of the two-minute videos, Seldowitz has his phone out and is speaking to a man who appears to be inside a food cart. Seldowitz mentions his “friends in immigration” and says, “the Mukhabarat wants your picture,” seemingly referring to an Egyptian intelligence agency.
“The Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They’ll take them out one by one,” he continues, as the man he’s addressing repeatedly tells him to leave and says he doesn’t speak English.
“Tell me why I should go? I’m standing here. I’m an American. It’s a free country. It’s not like Egypt,” Seldowitz responds. He instructs the man to “smile for me” as he holds his phone up.
“Muhammad, your prophet… He was a rapist,” he says.
This man wearing a green jacket was berating and harassing a halal cart vendor off 83rd and 2nd Ave in NYC. Does anyone know who this man is? Planning to report to the authorities. pic.twitter.com/GwklyXpsPH
— Layla (@itslaylas) November 21, 2023
Seldowitz then asks the man if he speaks Arabic, “the language of the Quran.”
“The holy Quran that some people use as a toilet. What do you think of that, people who used the Quran as a toilet? Does it bother you?” he asks, laughing.
He then berates the man for not speaking English.
“That’s why you’re selling food in a food cart, because you’re ignorant. But you should learn English, it’ll help you when they deport you back to Egypt and the Mukhabarat wants to interview you.”
A second video shows Seldowitz holding up two buttons to the food cart’s windows, one says Israel on it; the other is hard to discern.
“It’s not my fault that you pray to a criminal,” Seldowitz says when the food cart employee opens the windows. The employee asks Seldowitz to leave “please,” but Seldowitz refuses.
“I’m going to put up big signs here that say ‘This guy believes in Hamas,’” Seldowitz says and accuses the vendor of not having a permit or visa.
When the vendor says he’s an American citizen, Seldowitz asks how he became a citizen and calls him a “terrorist.”
“You support killing little children. You’re a terrible person,” Seldowitz says.
The vendor responds, “You kill children, not me.”
Seldowitz says, “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.”
In October, Seldowitz was interviewed about the Israel-Hamas war in an hour-long podcast by Amy Peikoff. Peikoff is former chief policy officer of Parler, a “free speech” social media network favored by right-wing users for its lack of content moderation.
He said Hamas was to blame for any Palestinian civilian deaths and said reports about the poor conditions in Gaza are exaggerated.
“The Israelis will and have in the past done almost everything that can reasonably be expected to keep civilian casualties down as low as possible,” he said, describing the Israeli Defense Forces as a “moral army.”
“Responsibility for the civilian casualties can squarely be laid at the doorstep of Hamas.”
Seldowitz also told Peikoff it’s “very hard” for Americans to relate to Palestinians “because their culture, their history, their religion and so on is so different than most of us.”
Seldowitz is also a senior consultant in humanitarian diplomacy for GDC Inc., a logistics company that services places impacted by war and natural disasters. In a Jerusalem Post article from July, GDC’s Chief Executive Officer Moti Kahana specifically called out Seldowitz as a key member of his team.
On Tuesday, Kahana, an Israeli-American, tweeted that he heard about a “confrontation” involving Seldowitz.
“I do not know the specific details of the event, and I and GDC’s team condemn such language. Mr. Seldowitz has worked with us in the past and saved thousands of Muslim lives in Afghanistan and Syria. We will await further details,” he said.