WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will soon fulfill a long delayed promise to Congress by naming a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, a position vacant since the month President Donald Trump took office, a Republican congressman tells NBC News.
In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked by Congress why the administration had failed to name an anti-Semitism envoy and testified: “You have my word. We'll move on them.” But the position, vacant since January 2017 has stayed that way.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who wrote the law creating the position, said Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan had told him late Monday that the administration had planned to name someone two weeks ago but that the candidate withdrew due to health reasons. He said Sullivan had informed him the administration has settled on another person and is preparing to name them to the job, although he couldn’t say exactly when.
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“Hopefully, yesterday, because the problem is very real,” Smith told NBC News. “I don’t think we can wait any longer for this.”
The Trump administration’s failure to name an envoy for anti-Semitism has come under renewed focus following the killing of 11 Jews on Saturday at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, has said it’s more important now than ever to ensure the position is filled by a qualified individual urgently.
The State Department confirmed that the position remains vacant but did not respond to questions Monday about whether the anti-Semitism office is still functioning and who is running it in the absence of a special envoy.
Smith, whose congressional district includes a substantial Jewish population, has also written legislation upgrading the special envoy position to a Senate-confirmed ambassadorship. The bill passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.
In the wake of the national scare over mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats and Trump critics, the administration has also faced criticism for a segment aired earlier this year by Radio Television Marti, a U.S.-government funded station that broadcasts in Spanish in Cuba. The segment referred to Democratic donor George Soros, whose home was targeted with a bomb, as a “multimillionaire Jew” and “architect of the financial collapse of 2008,” invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes. It warned that “George Soros has his eye on Latin America.”
On Monday, the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees government broadcasting including Radio Television Marti, acknowledged that the segment was “inconsistent with our professional standards and ethics.” CEO John Lansing said those deemed responsible would be put on leave immediately and might face disciplinary action including firing.
“I am personally and professionally offended by this example of unprofessionalism, and I am committed to ensuring that we develop processes and structures to prevent this from happening again,” Lansing said.