Gillibrand Defends Women's March Roiled by Anti-Semitism Scandal, Will Speak at Iowa March


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand / YouTube
January 17, 2019

Contrary to recent media reports, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) is scheduled to participate in the Women's March Saturday.

The Women's March Iowa shared an announcement Wednesday saying Gillibrand will be the keynote speaker at the event in Des Moines, even though a Buzzfeed article Tuesday suggested that Gillibrand was "avoiding" the Women's March. A story in the Washington Times said she was "abandon[ing]" the event after accusations of anti-Semitism, correctly noting she would not attend the march in Washington, D.C.

After publication of this article, Gillibrand's campaign told BuzzFeed that Gillibrand's attendance at the Iowa march did not mean she condoned anti-Semitism.

"Senator Gillibrand strongly condemns anti-Semitism from anyone, in all forms, and believes it has no place in a movement for women’s empowerment or anywhere else," her campaign said in a Thursday statement. "She is looking forward to being in Iowa and will not turn her back on the thousands of Iowa women who are joining this locally organized march to advocate for the issues that deeply impact them and their families. This powerful and meaningful march is about the hardworking women in Des Moines and across the country, and she can’t wait to join them."

The Women's March, an organization formed (and re-formed) after President Donald Trump's 2016 election victory, became a cause célèbre until recent allegations of unfettered anti-Semitism ground it to a halt.

Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour, putative founders of the march, were asked to answer for alleged incidents of negligent conduct and bigoted remarks towards Jewish women.

Mallory has repeatedly defended calling Louis Farrakhan, the homophobic and anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam, the "greatest of all time." Perez has unrepentantly appeared at major events with Farrakhan. The Anti-Defamation League describes the Nation of Islam as having "a consistent record of anti-Semitism" since the 1930s. Farrakhan has called Jews "termites" and Adolf Hitler a "great man."

Sarsour has offered support for an unindicted coconspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Discussing Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a survivor of female genital mutilation, she publicly expressed a wish to take her "vagina away" for not sharing her politics.

In November, as the questions into the movements misconduct mounted, Sarsour offered a non-apology, expressing regret for not denying the accusations sooner, rather than admitting to the accusations themselves. Sarsour, Perez, Mallory, and Bland remain at the helm of the organization. Amid the ongoing furor, the Democratic National Committee and other organizations are withdrawing their sponsorship for the event despite sponsoring it in years past.

On Saturday, Gillibrand is scheduled to offer the movement her support.

Unlike other marches around the country that have distanced themselves from the beleaguered leadership, the Iowa march is directly tied to the national movement. The Women's March Iowa Twitter account that tweeted the announcement is the same account linked to on the Women's March Iowa website. That website is listed on the national Women's March map of sister marches. They share both the name and logo. The Iowa event is promoted on Al Sharpton's National Action Network website.

Gillibrand has prominently endorsed the Women's March in the past. She spoke at the national event in Washington in 2017.

Rather than just support the movement's principle's or its rank and file, Gillibrand has also strongly supported its leaders. She penned a glowing profile for Mallory, Bland, Carmen and Sarsour in 2017 for Time magazine. In it, Gillibrand called them "four extraordinary women." She heralded them as "the suffragists of our time."

Gillibrand is also running to be elected president in 2020.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: This article has been updated to include Sen. Gillibrand's comment about the Iowa march.