HELP chairman Bernie Sanders avoids agreeing to campus antisemitism hearings

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wouldn’t commit Tuesday to holding hearings on college antisemitism as tensions escalate across the country with anti-Israel demonstrations persisting at elite universities.

“We are concerned about bigotry of all kinds, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure we eliminate all forms of bigotry in America, including antisemitism,” Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), told Fox News Digital.

Asked a second time whether the committee would be willing to hold hearings on displays of campus antisemitism, such as the Gaza solidarity encampment at Columbia University, which has led the school to make classes virtual and a rabbi recommending Jewish students return home, Sanders would not say.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders would not say if he would hold HELP committee hearings on campus antisemitism.  (Getty Images)

Sanders is one of nine Jewish senators, and has previously said he is proud of his Jewish identity. However, he has also explained that despite being bar mitzvahed and participating in the faith at one time, he is not “actively involved in organized religion.”

The Vermont senator was urged Monday to hold hearings on the subject by his Republican counterpart on the committee. HELP ranking member Bill Cassidy, R-La., said in a statement, “Chair Sanders and the Senate HELP Committee need to hold a hearing and conduct oversight of this eroding situation.

“There are no grounds for a nuanced response to the sickening calls of violence against Jewish students,” Cassidy added.

“The antisemitic scenes unfolding at Columbia University and college campuses across the country is bigotry manifested in violence and threats of violence. This should be responded to by expelling all perpetrators. There should be zero tolerance.”

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Cassidy urged the chairman to hold hearings. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)

The demonstration at Columbia University began last week, and since its start, 23 of the top 50 universities, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, have been home to active anti-Israel protests.

In response to the demonstrations, 27 Republican senators signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, demanding they prosecute anyone perpetrating violence or threatening Jewish students, revoke visas of non-citizens who are “promoting terrorism” and hold school administrators accountable.

Anti-Israel agitators gather on Columbia University’s campus in New York City April 22, 2024. (Peter Gerber)

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The departments of Justice and Education declined to comment to Fox News Digital.

Cardona addressed the various demonstrations, posting on X that “Antisemitic hate on college campuses is unacceptable.”

Twenty-seven Republican senators called on Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, right, to immediately address antisemitic protests across the country on college campuses.  (Getty Images)

“I am deeply concerned by what is happening at Columbia University. In November 2023, our Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation of Columbia involving Title VI,” he added.

Cassidy previously asked Sanders to hold hearings on antisemitic incidents one month after the Hamas terrorist attack on civilians that sparked the war between the group and Israel.

Sanders’ office did not respond to a request for further comment.

Julia Johnson is a politics writer for Fox News Digital and Fox Business, leading coverage of the U.S. Senate. She was previously a politics reporter at the Washington Examiner. 

Follow Julia’s reporting on X at @JuliaaJohnson_ and send tips to [email protected].

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