Second gentleman reflects on the personal toll of his work fighting antisemitism

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff said Wednesday in an exclusive interview that his work fighting the spread of antisemitism around the country weighs on him.

“There’s some days I don’t want to do it, because it’s too hard,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview from his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. “I’m too beat up about it. But my wife, the vice president, has been so supportive, pushing me out there to continue to use my voice and this microphone to push back on the hate, the vitriol of what’s going on.”

“I know I have an obligation to our Jewish community as the first Jewish person in this role,” he added. “There’s high expectations and there’s a lot of accountability – I take that extremely seriously. So, no matter how bad I might be feeling personally, it’s not going to stop me from continuing to use my voice, this microphone, to advocate against antisemitism, against hate, and to push our coalitions back together so we can fight this thing together.”

The second gentleman has taken on an elevated role in fighting antisemitism since the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. In the interview, which comes ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, Emhoff said he is “never going to not feel rage about what happened” during the Hamas attack - the deadliest act of violence against Jews since the Holocaust. Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president.

The spread of hate and antisemitism has been pervasive, Emhoff said, vowing that he and the Biden administration are doing “everything we can” to push back on all forms of extremism.

“We’ve seen the stoking of hate and anger by so-called leaders in this country,” Emhoff said. “We’ve seen leaders who stay silent and they know better – and silence is not acceptable. Noise is required right now. We all need to come together and combat this hate.”

More than 240 people were taken hostage on October 7. Emhoff met with some of the since-released hostages and their families at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week. The trauma those hostages experienced, Emhoff said, “cannot be minimized.”

“It cannot be forgotten,” he said. “The evidence is outrageous, and we can never forget that.”

But he noted that the roots of hate far pre-date October 7, pointing to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in which tiki-torch-carrying White supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia –†® some of them chanting “Jews will not replace us” – and the 2018 massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people.

Emhoff has made fighting hate and antisemitism as central focus point even before October 7. The Biden administration launched a national strategy to combat antisemitism last May, and Emhoff said that plan enabled the administration to not “start from scratch after October 7.”

That strategy included more than 100 Executive Branch actions, including bolstering research into antisemitism, conducting threat assessments and increased security funding.

“So we’ve done, in terms of keeping people safe, funds for security, education, fighting what’s happening online - but what I’m focused on is coalition building. … A lot of of our traditional coalitions are frayed, and it’s not a good thing to happen,” he said. “We need to bring these coalitions back, and so I’m doing a lot of work, a lot of public speaking, a lot of things behind the scenes, to get everyone together - to get everyone to understand this hate is all connected.”

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