At a vigil for the Christchurch mosque shootings, students accused Chelsea Clinton of ‘stoking’ Islamophobia with her ‘rhetoric.’ Twitter users fought the claims.
Twitter users were horrified to see Chelsea Clinton, 39, get blamed for the deaths of the 49 victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings. After a gunman, who was identified as Brenton Harrison Tarrant in court papers, opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, the former president’s daughter paid her respects at a vigil in New York University. However, an angry group of NYU students didn’t appreciate her presence, and a student was filmed confronting Chelsea over recent remarks she made about Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar. “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deeply – 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there,” the student told the children’s author, which drew finger snaps from an unseen crowd.
Chelsea, who is pregnant with her and husband Marc Mezvinsky’s third child, tried to apologize when she was first approached. “I’m so sorry that you feel that way. Certainly, it was never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity,” she said, and repeated a similar apology — “I’m so sorry that you feel that way” — a second time. This vexed another student behind the camera, who yelled, “What does that mean?”
The confrontation happened after Chelsea sent a cautionary tweet to Ilhan, a Democrat congresswoman from Minnesota, who accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) of paying congress members to support Israel. The AIPAC is a nonprofit lobbying group, so making political contributions would be illegal. “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel,” newspaper editor Batya Ungar-Sargon tweeted in February, and Ilhan replied in a now-deleted tweet, “AIPAC!” After the exchange, Chelsea tweeted to the newspaper editor on Feb. 10, “Co-signed as an American. We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.” In another tweet about Ilhan, Chelsea wrote that “we have to call out anti-Semitic language and tropes on all sides, particularly in our elected officials and particularly now.” Ilhan apologized for her controversial tweets afterwards, stating that she’s “grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues.”
— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) March 16, 2019
this is absolute horseshit. chelsea clinton calling out ilhan omar’s anti-semitism is not islamophobia and blaming her for christchurch is completely uncalled for. i’m muslim and i thought omar crossed the line into anti-semitism.
muslims need allies. this video ain’t it, chief. https://t.co/uGncCxphxx
— siraj hashmi (@SirajAHashmi) March 16, 2019
Twitter users are now defending Chelsea, arguing that her tweet against “anti-Semitism” is a far cry from Islamophobic rhetoric. “This is absolute horsesh*t. chelsea clinton calling out ilhan omar’s anti-semitism is not islamophobia and blaming her for christchurch is completely uncalled for. i’m muslim and i thought omar crossed the line into anti-semitism…muslims need allies. this video ain’t it, chief,” Washington Examiner writer Siraj Hashmi tweeted on March 15. Another person had her own take, writing, “It’s not pewdiepie’s fault, it’s not chelsea clinton’s fault, it’s not the gun’s fault, it’s the fault of a disgusting white supremacist who wanted to divide people and we’re letting him. love each other.” A third person chimed in, tweeting, “Hey, so, gonna go out on a limb here and say that Chelsea Clinton isn’t one bit responsible for the terrorist attack in New Zealand, and it’s incredibly disturbing to see even one person harass her in public and make such a ridiculous claim.” Others have pointed out that Chelsea is still considered a private citizen, despite her parents’ vocations: “People seem to forget this all the time, but Chelsea Clinton is not an elected official, she is a private citizen. You’re not ‘speaking truth to power’ or really accomplishing much of anything when you try to make her accountable for societal ills.”
A month prior to attending the vigil, Chelsea had also defended Ilhan when Mike Pence tweeted that the congresswoman’s apology “was inadequate.” Chelsea replied, “Mr. Vice President- Congresswoman @IlhanMN apologized. She has moved on to highlighting challenges facing McDonald’s workers. President Trump, a far more powerful person in Washington, has never apologized for his embrace of white nationalism & anti-Semitic & Islamophobic hate.”
The student who approached Chelsea tweeted that she has received “death threats” over the viral video, and clarified in a tweet, “i didn’t corner chelsea clinton, i didn’t approach her with anyone else, i didn’t ask people to record me. the confrontation wasn’t planned, though i was going to disrupt her if she spoke and say the same things that i said to her face.” In another tweet, she added, “i can’t believe this has to be said, but i didn’t tell chelsea clinton she was the one who put a gun to muslims’ heads. i said, & continue to say, that by jumping on the right-wing bandwagon & villifying ilhan omar, she fed into the EXACT discourse we were at the vigil to protest.”