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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story had reported that Oliver did not respond to repeated requests for comment. This story has now been updated to reflect comment from the Lt. Governor.
Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver joined other statewide officeholders in criticizing a recent epidemic of anti-Semitic statements from officials in three New Jersey cities, saying there should be zero tolerance for hate speech.
“I am deeply disappointed by the recent anti-Semitic rhetoric uttered by leaders in Passaic, Trenton and Paterson,” Oliver told the New Jersey Globe. “Having been raised in a predominantly mixed African American and Jewish neighborhood in Newark, I know that these terms are completely unacceptable – and these public officials should also know better.”
Oliver said there should be “no tolerance for stereotypical tropes or hateful language that feed racism or anti-Semitism in reference to any ethnic or religious group.”
“New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the country, and we pride ourselves on this diversity – we can do better, and we must do better,” Oliver said.
The Globe had previously reported that Oliver had not responded to several requests for comment on anti-Semitic comments in recent weeks, which left her as the only statewide officeholder to not weigh in on the contentious topic.
The New Jersey Globe had requested comment from a top Oliver aide at 6:40 last night during a conversation on another topic. The request was acknowledged in a 10:51 AM e-mail this morning.
“We’ll get back to you shortly on your other inquiry,” Tammori Petty, the communications director for the Lt. Governor told the Globe today.
Requests for comment at 3:36 PM and 4:29 PM were not answered, and a 4:28 PM phone call was not answered on a state cell phone where voicemail has not been set up.
The Globe posted a story at 4:56 PM. Oliver’s statement arrived shortly after that.
Oliver has been serving as Acting Governor since last Friday, when Gov. Phil Murphy left for a trade mission to India.
While Oliver has appeared in public numerous times over the last week, she has not had had any events with open press availabilities. Her schedule tomorrow also does not include any opportunity to speak with the media.
The last time Oliver took questions from the press was on August 5.
Asked by the Globe if she knew about big raises given to eight New Jersey Transit executives, Oliver refused comment.
“That is off topic, and today I am focused on gun violence and the bills we are signing,” Oliver said at an unrelated press conference on the signing of a series of gun safety bills.
Murphy, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker were quick to comment on the issue.
This morning, all twelve members of the New Jersey House delegation issued a joint statement calling on Trenton city councilmembers who used anti-Semitic slurs to resign if they don’t apologize for their comments.
In August, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development fired Jeffrey Dye from his state job after learning of a series of anti-Semitic and anti-Latino posts on his Facebook page. The NAACP suspended Dye’s membership and removed him from his post as president of the Passaic branch.
Oliver has met Dye several times, Facebook photographs show, and she praised him at a Passaic NAACP event she attended in October 17 at the request of the Murphy for Governor campaign.
“I think he has stepped into his season of leadership,” Oliver said. “I’ve known Jeffrey for a while now and I have watched him grow and develop and I am very proud of the community leader that he is becoming in Passaic.”
Last week, Paterson Councilman Michael Jackson praised a real estate developer for not trying to “Jew us down” during a discussion about a redevelopment project in the city.
Council President Kathy McBride used the term “Jew her down” during the discussion of a lawsuit settlement. Two of her colleagues, Robin Vaughn and George Muschal, used the same hateful trope in defending her.
Muschal told the New Jersey Globe that “Jew her down” was “just a statement of speech.”
“You know, it’s like a car dealer, they wanted $5,000, you Jew ‘em down to $4,000,” Muschal said. “It’s nothing vicious. The expression has been said millions of times.”
Vaughn, who continues to defend McBride on social media, said that “Jew her down” was just a verb and didn’t see anything wrong with the term.