California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) met Thursday with the state's Council on American-Islamic Relations chapter (CAIR) just weeks after the group's leader said he was "happy to see" Hamas's terrorist attack on Israel, a comment that even prompted condemnation from the Biden White House.
Newsom, a potential presidential contender, hosted CAIR officials, the group said in a press release. The activists called on Newsom to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and urged him to ensure freedom of speech for anti-Israel protesters at California schools. The White House, which selected CAIR to serve on a task force to combat anti-Semitism last year, distanced itself from the group in November after CAIR president Nihad Awad said he "was happy to see" Hamas fighters attack Israel on Oct. 7.
In the meeting with CAIR, Newsom provides a high-profile platform to an activist group with longstanding ties to Hamas. Federal prosecutors named CAIR an "unindicted co-conspirator" of Hamas front groups in 2009. Awad in November claimed Israel "does not have a right to defend itself."
The head of CAIR’s California chapter, Hussam Ayloush, praised Newsom after the meeting for providing a "platform to request the administration be proactive in ensuring the dignity of Palestinians."
"In his tenure, Governor Newsom has paved the path as a champion for civil rights, and we urge him to continue to use his voice as the leader of Californians who overwhelmingly demand a ceasefire," said Ayloush.
Ayloush, too, has downplayed Hamas’s attack on Israel, the worst attack in the Jewish state’s history. He asserted in a sermon at the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco in November that it was "a lie" that Hamas’s invasion of Israel was an "unprovoked attack," the Washington Free Beacon reported.
"If I hear that term again, I’ll go crazy," Ayloush said. "Unprovoked in what dictionary?"
Newsom gave $200,000 in 2022 to the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco through California’s Nonprofit Security Grant program, awarded to religious institutions to help protect against terrorist attacks, the Free Beacon reported. Newsom’s office awarded $135,000 to CAIR’s California chapter as part of the program.
The administration awarded grants to other mosques that cheered Hamas, including Sajjadia Islamic Society in Riverside, Calif. In a sermon in November, pro-Iran cleric Hamza Sodagar said "Allah" sent "the rockets from Hamas or Hezbollah" to strike Israel.
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment.