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Rubio Questions Nominees to Serve as Special Envoy for Anti-Semitism and U.S. Ambassador to Honduras During Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

Feb 8, 2022 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) served as Ranking Member during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations nominations hearing, where he stressed the importance of bipartisanship to the nominee for Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and urged the nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Honduras to prioritize Honduras’ partnership with Taiwan. Video of Rubio’s remarks can be found here and a full transcript is below.
 
Rubio is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee On Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.

Witnesses: 
Ms. Randi Charno Levine, to be U.S. Ambassador to the Portuguese Republic
The Honorable N. Nickolas Perry, to be U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica
The Honorable Laura Farnsworth Dogu, to be U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Honduras
Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt, to be Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, with the Rank of Ambassador
 
Rubio: Let’s begin with the Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. As I think Senator Lankford pointed out in his letter, this is a position that we want to make sure is one that’s represented as a nonpartisan one, that the world knows that America is united on this. It gives us the strength of our voice around the world, and I wanted to give you a chance to address it. 
 
As you know, you’ve answered questions that have, in the past, addressed a series of social media posts and the like that referenced members of the Republican Party, members of the Senate, and the like. And clearly, as an American, you have the absolute right. We don’t believe in canceling anybody, people have a right to speak out and express their views. But I think you would understand how someone seeing that would then be concerned that a position that is supposed to be nonpartisan, how could that be so if someone has expressed these views in recent history? 
 
So I wanted to give you an opportunity to address to someone who is concerned about your ability to operate in a nonpartisan way. How do we reconcile that with your very strong opinions that you’ve expressed in the past about both individuals in the Senate and also the Republican Party, frankly?
 
Lipstadt: Thank you for the question, Senator Rubio, and thank you for the chance to address that issue. As I said in my opening statement, I am an equal opportunity critic of anyone who says something, it doesn’t matter what end or even in the middle of the political spectrum, where they may place themselves. I firmly believe that those people who only see anti-Semitism – or any form of prejudice, but certainly anti-Semitism – on the other side of the political transom are not really interested in fighting anti-Semitism. They’re weaponizing anti-Semitism, and there is no excuse for that at all. 
 
I have been critical and I acknowledge that I’ve also learned not to tweet in the middle of the night- [that’s a] very bad thing to do, and I have sometimes not been as nuanced in my tweets as I like. But I think if you look at my criticism holistically, you will see that I have been exceptionally critical of members of the Democratic Party, of people on the end of the political spectrum where I place myself. I have written about Antifa, for instance, as a violent, anti-democratic, self-serving, and dangerous entity. I have criticized specific members [of Congress] when I feel that they have said something that can be construed or is anti-Semitic. 
 
Finally, the last two points. A person’s political persuasions are irrelevant in the fight against anti-Semitism. 
 
And the last point I want to make is when I am critical, I am not critical of the person themselves – particularly if I don’t know the person, I’ve had no contact with the person – but of what they said and how that might be interpreted.
 
Rubio: I wanted to ask you about Amnesty International. Their recent report – I’m sure you’re very familiar with it at this point – I think it falsely frames Israel as a singular evil among the nations of the world. [Could] that kind of language from an organization like that be something that helps to justify and foster anti-Semitic attacks against Jews across the globe?
 
Lipstadt: I don’t want to talk about the details of the report, but that kind of language, I found it more than ahistorical — I found it unhistorical. 
 
Branding Israel [as] an apartheid state is more than historically inaccurate. I believe it’s part of a larger effort to delegitimize the Jewish state. Such language, I see it spilling over onto campuses where it poisons the atmosphere, particularly for Jewish students. You have to ask why people are using that kind of language, what are they trying to accomplish? 
 
I know that the Biden-Harris Administration has taken a very strong position on this. In fact, last month, the State Department spokesman cited the department’s vehement disagreement with that language. And probably our ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said it best, albeit in a tweet. He said, “Come on, this is absurd.” And I second that.
 
Rubio: I just wanted to ask on the topic of Honduras – and obviously these countries are people that choose their leaders and they have a right to elect them – but there is reason to be concerned, is there not, with statements recently made about this desire to potentially engage abandoned diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and switch it to Beijing. I just want an assurance that that would be a priority for us – for you, if confirmed to this post – that it would be. And it reflects, I believe, the official position of the United States that we would be very forceful in making that a priority and in laying out the arguments for why we think that would be a bad idea.
 
Dogu: Since the elections, there have been many high level visits from Washington down to Honduras, and I know that everybody that has made that visit and spoken with the new government down there has stressed the importance of that relationship with Taiwan. And as you heard me say in my opening statement, I too, if confirmed, will uphold that strong position. 
 
I do believe it’s very important for the government of Honduras to continue their relationship with the government of Taiwan. I think it can be beneficial, obviously, it has been in the past, and I think it will continue to be so. I think there are opportunities to work together, especially in the economic space. 
 
Obviously, the government of Taiwan has succeeded in developing a strong economy in their own country, and I think there are lessons that can be learned and shared and investments that can be made and should be made in Honduras. So I do commit to you that I would continue to take that position and to work strongly to maintain that relationship with Taiwan if I am confirmed.