A senior White House adviser on Sunday acknowledged a “rise in hate” amid increased attacks against Jewish and Asian Americans, despite President Biden’s message of “unity” early in his administration.
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of Union,” Cedric Richmond, the senior adviser to the president, appeared to blame “dangerous rhetoric” about the coronavirus pandemic during the Trump administration for the uptick in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
Richmond did not address an explanation for the increase in anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish people seen in the U.S. amid the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He did tout that the Justice Department under the Biden administration is focused on rooting out “homegrown violent extremists.”
“The rise in hate, period, has been something that this administration has been focused on from the beginning, whether it’s AAPI hate that came from COVID-19 and the dangerous rhetoric that we heard or whether it’s anti-Semitic violence, we’re concerned about one, homegrown violent extremists and we’re worried about the increase in hate,” Richmond told CNN host Dana Bash.
“And we’ve been talking about it for a while. So we have a Justice Department. That one, is independent, but two that is focused on the rise in hate crimes. It’s important,” he added.
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Richmond ambiguously called out a “large portion of the population” who he says refuse to look at facts.
“And look, we can’t address these issues if we have a large portion of the population that refuses to look at facts and call facts as they see them. And so our Justice Department won’t do that,” he said. “The president won’t do that, and the administration won’t do that. We’re going to try our best to address all hate crimes as we see them increase in drastic numbers.”
Coming into office following the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, Biden promised a different course for America during his inaugural address – one where people could come together.
In the speech on Jan. 20, Biden mentioned “a rise in political extremism, White supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”
“To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words,” he continued. “It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: unity.”
But the jury’s still out on whether that promise has moved toward fruition.
As pro-Palestinian demonstrations have continued in several U.S. cities, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) warned last week that preliminary data shows an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents linked to the violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Over the weekend, the NYPD’s Hate Crime Division announced its investigating two more incidents after Jewish teenagers were beaten with a baseball bat in Brooklyn. And Orthodox Jewish worshippers at a synagogue were also harassed Saturday.
Both incidents involved suspects who allegedly shouted pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic messages. They follow the more high-profile case earlier in the week involving a 29-year-old man wearing a yarmulke who was jumped in a “gang assault” near Times Square and beaten with his own crutches.
In Los Angeles, video captured a separate incident where a caravan of demonstrators waving Palestinian flags stopped outside of a sushi restaurant and allegedly singled out and beat Jewish diners. But events have not been confined to major cities, as ADL cited another recent incident where pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated outside a synagogue in Skokie, Illinois, and thousands of tweets voicing support for Hitler have been posted online since the most recent outbreak of violence in Israel.
Violence against the Asian community has also continued.
In March, a shooting rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area claimed the lives of eight people, including six women of Asian descent.
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That attack, as well as videos that went viral showing elderly Asians seeming targeted in unprovoked street attacks in northern California and New York City, garnered mainstream media coverage and the Biden administration renewed its commitment to bolster resources at the Justice Department to track, report and prevent anti-AAPI crimes.
Last week, Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law to speed the review of hate crimes and make it easier to aid in their reporting.
“Hate can be given no safe harbor in America,” Biden said, adding that hate crimes are under-reported.
“Every time we let hate flourish, we make a lie of who we are as a nation,” he added.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.