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Former employer of ex-Obama official says racist rants against Arab vendor ‘awful,’ offers legal services

CHICAGO: The former employer of an ex-Obama official who racially abused an Arab food vendor in New York has described his rants as “awful” and offered his legal services to the seller.

Videos of Stuart Seldowitz, 64, have gone viral on social media after he was filmed verbally taunting a seller at Adam Halal Food Cart on the corner of East 83rd St and 2nd Ave in New York against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war.

He has since been charged with aggravated harassment and three counts of stalking, one of which is a hate crime, according to VICE News.

The president of Gotham Government Relations, the Manhattan based lobbying firm that formerly employed Seldowitz, told Arab News that he called the former aide and fired him from the company “minutes after seeing the video.”

David Schwartz, an attorney, also offered to provide his legal services to the vendor and expressed his sympathy for the victim.

“I feel so bad for this street vendor that no one should be attacked that way. I would be happy to represent him for free and get any kind of justice for him. I want to meet him and offer my services to him personally,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz noted that while Seldowitz was a part of the firm, he hadn’t done any work for the company for years and is not involved in any projects.

“I am outraged by his actions. I think he needs serious help. I don’t think is the same person I knew. He is a very intelligent person. You can tell by his resume … this is someone who has been decorated and ruined his entire career by doing something so heinous. I can’t even describe how awful this is,” Schwartz, who is Jewish, said.

“I see this from the standpoint of a hardworking person who runs a street food cart from 9 a.m. until 1 in the morning. I mean this guy works hard. He provides a service and a product to the community. And to be attacked like that unprovoked.”

Schwartz said his firm would reach out to the vendor and provide any legal assistance he needed.

“The guy is in his food cart (and) is just trying to make a living. I don’t even care about the other stuff, the conflict. What possess people to do this? That’s a broader issue, a bigger issue that has to be resolved. But as far as this gentleman goes, he had a right to be there and not be attacked,” Schwartz said, adding it is “ironic” because Seldowitz had worked on the Israel-Palestine desk for four years while at the US State Department.

“We have to start respecting each other in a small way. And if we respect each other, it will lead to good things,” Schwartz added.

New York Police Department spokesman Tarik Sheppard told Arab News that an investigation was launched immediately after the videos were brought to their attention.

New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers, who represents the Upper East Side, condemned Seldowitz’s harassment in a post on X, saying: “This xenophobic and disgusting behavior has no place on the Upper East Side or New York City. No one should be harassed because of their religion or identity.”

Seldowitz worked in the administration of former US President Barack Obama as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate. He also worked at the US State Department.

A worker at the cart, identified only as Samir, works early each morning serving lamb, falafel, chicken kebab and shawarma sandwiches to walk-up customers and through delivery services including DoorDash and GrubHub.

Samir told Arab News when contacted: “I am really busy and I have too many customers and I have to work and provide them food … It’s Thanksgiving week here in America.”

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