At a March 15 vigil for the victims of the New Zealand mosque massacre, NYU students Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf confronted Chelsea Clinton over a tweet criticizing Rep. Ilhan Omar. Video of the confrontation quickly went viral, sparking both support and outrage. Now, Dweik and Asaf are speaking out about the exchange.
In the video Dweik tells Clinton,“This, right here, is a 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 deep down inside. Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”
She’s referring to Clinton’s response to a Tweet critical of Rep. Ilhan Omar in the wake of comments that some saw as anti-Semitic. “Co-signed as an American,” Clinton wrote in reply. “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
According to The Washington Post, Dweik and Asaf questioned Clinton’s use of the words “as an American:”
“Dweik, a Muslim Palestinian, and Asaf, a Jewish Israeli American, took offense to Clinton’s reaction, particularly her reference to “as an American.” Was Clinton suggesting that she was more “an American” than Omar, a Somali refugee and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress?”
The video has created a firestorm, in which opportunists like Donald Trump Jr. were quick to defend Clinton, while others wondered what she was even doing at the vigil in the first place.
In a statement published at Buzzfeed, Dweik and Asaf responded that the Christchurch massacre was a result of hateful rhetoric irrespective of party lines:
“Many have said it was unfair to connect Chelsea’s words to the massacre in Christchurch. To them, we say that anti-Muslim bigotry must be addressed wherever it exists. This is not about left and right. This is about people who do and do not have power, and how those with power use it. A global environment of hatred and vilification against Muslims created this killer. Spurred on by professional bigots, anti-Muslim hate now permeates our culture and politics, and everyone, as a matter of urgency, should consider the role they play in enabling it. That includes Chelsea Clinton.”
In the video, Clinton tells Dweik, “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.”
The Buzzfeed response seemingly addresses that apology:
“To Chelsea Clinton: We hope that our intentions in confronting you are now clear. We believe that you still owe an apology: not only to Rep. Omar, but also to Palestinians for using your platform to defame their cause. As an Israeli national and a Palestinian, we want you to know that it is dangerous to label valid criticisms of Israel and its lobby as anti-semitic. We know that this is a tactic to silence us and deny us our free speech.”
Though Clinton hasn’t publicity responded to the video, a rep says she “has a history of being outspoken against all forms of hate including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. She’s spoken about this publicly for years at events and responds to what she sees in real time from her Twitter account.”