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Former State Department Official Terrorizes Food Truck Vendor

Stuart Seldowitz told reporters he was caught "in the heat of the moment" harassing the same man on at least three different occasions.

9:38 AM EST on November 22, 2023

(Hell Gate)

It's fascinating what people will say on camera when they think they can get away with it. Things like: "Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad did?" and "It's not my fault that you pray to a criminal!" and "You know what? If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, it wasn't enough! It wasn't enough!" 

That's what came out of the mouth of Stuart Seldowitz, who said all of this—and more—to a street vendor on the Upper East Side with the full knowledge that the man who he was terrorizing was recording their interactions. 

Videos show Seldowitz returning multiple times to harass the same food cart vendor, in different sets of clothes and at different times of the day, with the same volley of Islamophobic, racist statements—calling the Prophet Muhammad a "rapist" and a "child molester," calling the vendor a "terrorist," and insulting Egypt, where he seems to believe the vendor is from. The man recording him, meanwhile, tries to get Seldowitz to leave—dodging his questions, repeatedly telling him to "go," and at times saying that he doesn't speak English, which prompts Seldowitz to call the vendor "ignorant."

Perhaps Seldowitz thought his status as a former State Department employee would insulate him from any potential consequences for his hateful comments. He told the New York Times that he served as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate and, for a time, held a post in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs. Maybe he just thinks he's better than the vendor. Seldowitz repeatedly pesters the vendor over whether he's in the country legally, and at one point asks if he has a permit for his food cart—something the vendor responds to in the affirmative—and says that the vendor's licensing status is his business because he "[knows] the guy who owns all of these" carts. 

Seldowitz expressed surprise that his former associates at Gotham Government Relations, a lobbying firm that previously listed Seldowitz as their foreign affairs chair, repudiated him after clips of his one-man harassment campaign went viral—the company's president even offered to represent the food cart vendor pro bono if he was interested in suing Seldowitz. "I had a high opinion of the people at Gotham up until I found out that they had issued this statement. I considered the people at Gotham to be friends, and I haven't had a chance to speak to them, or to try to speak to them as to why they felt the need to issue this statement," Seldowitz told City & State.

Based on his comments, it appears that Seldowitz thinks of himself as a man engaging in a reasonable debate. He claimed in an interview that he was merely reacting to the vendor allegedly telling him that he supported Hamas. Seldowitz also insisted that he isn't Islamophobic and chalked the venomous, hateful nature of his comments up to mere circumstance: "I regret the whole thing happened and I'm sorry. But you know, in the heat of the moment, I said things that probably I shouldn't have said."

But Seldowitz isn't a man participating in a spirited round of discourse. He is the ugly thing that crawls out into the sun when it gets the idea—maybe from a president who spent weeks resisting calls for a ceasefire in the face of 11,000 Palestinian deaths, or a mayor who says migrants "will destroy New York City," or a police force notorious for baselessly surveilling Muslims, or neighbors hanging signs that say "flat Gaza NOW! Kill them all!"—that it's finally safe to do so. 

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