Pressure mounts on Lipstadt nomination after report claims Lipstadt tweet and Wisconsin senator are linked to delays | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Pressure mounts on Lipstadt nomination after report claims Lipstadt tweet and Wisconsin senator are linked to delays 


Deborah Lipstadt’s nomination to a key federal antisemitism post has been delayed for about six months so far, and some in the media are clamoring for confirmation.  

President Joe Biden nominated Lipstadt last July, but she has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. 

According to a New York Times report, Lipstadt may be asked to apologize to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, before Republican members of Congress will agree to confirm the noted historian of the Holocaust. The apology would be for a tweet in which Lipstadt accused him of white supremacy, according to the report. 

Since the New York Times report Jan. 8, the opinion arms of several news organizations have called for Lipstadt’s swift confirmation. The recent hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Texas has added to the pressure. 

“Filling one position won’t eliminate a millennia-old problem,” wrote the Bloomberg opinion editorial board, citing rising antisemitism and the Texas crisis. “Leaving the post empty for partisan reasons, however, would be indefensible.” 

A headline from an opinion piece on the matter, from the Forward, reads, “Anti-Semitism Is Not A Game.” 

Johnson’s office did not respond to Chronicle requests for comment. 

How it unfolded 

On March 14, 2021, Lipstadt tweeted an article about a statement by Johnson in which he said he would have been more concerned by the events of Jan. 6, 2021 had the rioters been “Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters” instead of Trump supporters. Lipstadt tweeted the article, saying “This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple.” 

Other Republican lawmakers have faulted her for appearing in an ad during the 2020 presidential race likening former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric to those of the Nazis in the 1930s, before the Holocaust. 

Lipstadt, 74, has long been a go-to expert for the media and for legislators on issues related to the Holocaust and antisemitism. She twice endorsed Barack Obama for president but has been called on for her expertise by leaders across the political spectrum. In November, three Jewish organizations called on the Senate to confirm Lipstadt for the appointment “without further delay.” 

Lipstadt would fill the role previously held by Hannah Rosenthal, who subsequently led Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Lipstadt would be the first antisemitism envoy to be confirmed by the Senate, after the post was transformed in 2020 from “envoy” to “ambassador,” which requires Senate approval. 

In December 2020, Rosenthal called the title change an “unfortunate” development. 

“It delays the start of the new person, because he or she will have to be approved by the Senate’s schedule, and we know how long that can take,” Rosenthal said at the time. “It does not change the work in any way. The special envoy is at the ambassador level but with a different title.” 

Reached for comment Jan. 25, 2022, Rosenthal said, “This is exactly why I didn’t support moving this position to Senate approval.” 

“It becomes a political football,” she continued. “Not only do I know all about that job as special envoy because I had it in President Obama’s first term, but I also know Deborah well and she is the perfect choice for this job. Antisemitism is growing all over the world, and the U.S. doesn’t have an expert to monitor and combat it.”