A former national security adviser to President Obama was caught on video berating a Muslim street vendor in New York City, calling the man a “terrorist,” describing the prophet Mohammed as a “rapist,” and warning that he and his family would be tortured by the security services “when they deport you back to Egypt.”
After the footage went viral across social media on Tuesday, and people on X, formerly Twitter, attempted to crowdsource his identity, Stuart Seldowitz confirmed to The Daily Beast that he was indeed the man recorded.
“The bottom line is, yes it’s me,” Seldowitz said.
The shocking clip was posted by a user who asked others to help identify Seldowitz, 64, who could be seen pelting the vendor, on 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, with Islamophobic slurs. The video does not show how the encounter began.
“The Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents,” Seldowitz said in the video. “Does your father like his fingernails? They will take them out one-by-one.”
When the vendor asked Seldowitz to leave, he refused, then asked, “Did you rape your daughter like Mohammed did? Did you rape your daughter like Mohammed?”
After calling the man “ignorant” and denigrating him for “selling food in a food cart,” Seldowitz tells him to “learn English… [because it] will help you when they deport you back to Egypt and the Mukhabarat wants to interview you.”
In a second clip posted by the same user, Seldowitz, who served as deputy director/senior political officer in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs before becoming acting director of the National Security Council South Asia Directorate during the Obama administration, can be heard telling the vendor, “If we killed 4,000 palestinian kids, it wasn’t enough.”
“It’s not my fault that you pray to a criminal,” Seldowitz says at one point.
On Tuesday, Seldowitz told The Daily Beast that the footage only shows one side of the story, and that the vendor touched things off by expressing his support for Hamas. He said he proceeded to question the vendor about his stance, saying he thought “there should be some comment back to someone who is endorsing terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians.”
Following the uproar online, a powerful lobbying and political communications shop where Seldowitz chaired, as recently as last year, the firm’s foreign affairs practice, severed ties with the career diplomat.
“Gotham Government Relations has ended all affiliation with Stuart Seldowitz, an individual who hasn’t contributed to our work in years,” the company posted on X. “The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm.”
Reached by phone, Gotham chairman Arthur Aidala told The Daily Beast that Seldowitz hadn’t been actively involved with the firm for quite some time, and that he personally only “met him one time, probably two years ago, and I’ve never seen him since.”
“I don’t believe he’s ever been up to the office,” Aidala said, adding, “If he was, it was never when I was there. He’s been a lone wolf for quite some time.”
He described his reaction to the video as “obviously… a surprise.”
“No human being should speak to any other human being that way, no matter how emotional and tragic this period of time is in the world,” Aidala said. “Doing what he did is not going to solve anything, it’s just going to make matters worse.”
The vendor has not yet been publicly identified.