Anti-Semitic Remarks Nearly Derailed US Ambassador to Brazil's Nomination. Now She's Silent as Brazil Compares Israel to Nazis.

Elizabeth Bagley bemoaned 'influence of the Jewish lobby'

Elizabeth Bagley (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images), Lula da Silva (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
March 6, 2024

The U.S. ambassador to Brazil—who once bemoaned "the influence of the Jewish lobby" in politics—will not publicly comment on a series of anti-Semitic remarks by far-left Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, raising concerns on Capitol Hill about the Biden appointee's stance on growing Jew-hatred across the globe.

Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, whose 2022 nomination drew opposition from Republicans due to anti-Semitic statements in which she claimed the "Jewish lobby" exerts undue influence over the Democratic Party because of its "major money," has spent the past few weeks avoiding comment on Lula's accusations that Israel is behaving like the Nazis and waging a genocide on the Palestinian people.

The State Department declined to make Bagley available for an interview with the Washington Free Beacon on Lula's comments and would not issue a stance on them under Bagley's name. Bagley's reluctance to comment on Lula's anti-Semitic remarks is raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill ahead of a Thursday hearing on anti-Semitism across Latin America.

One senior congressional source who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon said the ambassador's "silence is deafening and impossible to ignore" in light of her own comments about Jews controlling politics through money.

"There were already concerns with her past anti-Semitic comments in the Senate. Now the Biden administration has embraced anti-Semitic leftwing populists across the Western Hemisphere, and it's becoming an issue," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. "Despite all of this, Bagley won't make even the most basic symbolic statements. People are justified asking what she really believes."

A State Department spokesman, in response to questions from the Free Beacon, said the United States "disagrees with President Lula's comparison of Gaza to the Holocaust." Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue in a February meeting with the Brazilian president that came under scrutiny for being held just after Lula accused Israel of genocide.

"While in Brazil, Secretary Blinken, alongside Ambassador Bagley, conveyed directly to President Lula that the United States disagreed with his comparison," the spokesman said. "Separately, Ambassador Bagley and her staff at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates have met numerous times with leaders of the Brazilian Jewish community, including this week."

Asked again if Bagley had her own response to Lula's comments, the State Department declined to provide further information.

Bagley's silence is under scrutiny in light of a 1998 interview in which she criticized "the influence of the Jewish lobby because there is major money involved."

Bagley further said, "The Democrats always tend to go with the Jewish constituency on Israel and say stupid things, like moving the capital to Jerusalem always comes up." Political support for these issues is due to "the Jewish factor, it's money," she said.

The comments nearly derailed her Senate confirmation process, with Democrats and Republicans raising concern about comments they viewed as anti-Semitic.

"I regret that you would think that it was a problem," Bagley told Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) when Cardin raised the comments during a hearing. "I certainly didn't mean anything by it. It was a poor choice of words, but it was something that the interviewer had asked me, prompted by something about politics."

As the ambassador to Brazil, Bagley is tasked with pushing back against a wave of anti-Semitism that has spiked since Hamas's attack on Israel. Lula and other far-left leaders in the Western Hemisphere have bucked close relations with the United States in favor of malign regimes such as Iran, Russia, and China.

Thursday's hearing on the House Foreign Affairs Committee will address this rising Jew-hatred and feature remarks from the U.S. envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.