A former Obama administration official has been captured in a number of viral videos harassing a New York City food cart vendor with racist rants.
The videos, originally posted on X by a Columbia University student on Tuesday, show Stuart Seldowitz, who served as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate from 2009 to 2011, using disturbing language to mock the unnamed Upper East Side halal vendor's English-speaking skills, citizenship status and Islamic religion.
"Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad did?" Seldowitz asks the vendor in the first video, referring to the Prophet Muhammad, the most revered figure in Islam. The video shows the vendor repeatedly saying he doesn't speak English and asking Seldowitz to leave.
Seldowitz then appears to take a photo of the vendor and threatens to send it to his "friends in Immigration" and the Mukhabarat, Egypt's intelligence agency, before suggesting the organization would torture the vendor's family by removing their fingernails. It's unclear if the vendor is Egyptian.
He then calls the vendor "ignorant" for presumably not being able to speak English.
The second video shows Seldowitz harassing the vendor on a separate occasion by asking if he has a permit to sell food on the street and if he has a visa.
The vendor tells Seldowitz that if he doesn't intend to buy anything, then he needs to leave, but Seldowitz continues to hound him, appearing to accuse him of being a Hamas supporter.
"You support killing young children," Seldowitz said, to which the vendor replied, "You kill children, not me. Go."
"I didn’t kill children," Seldowitz responded, before saying, "If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, it wasn’t enough."
Another video posted by a different X user shows Seldowitz again asking if the vendor is in the country legally, before a bystander jumps in to defend the vendor.
After the videos surfaced, Seldowitz told the Daily Beast that they only show one side of the whole story. He admitted to starting up the initial conversation with the vendor but claimed the latter instigated the escalation by expressing support for Hamas.
"I regret the whole thing happened, and I’m sorry," he later told City & State. "But you know, in the heat of the moment, I said things that probably I shouldn’t have said."
"If I had to do it all over again, I would not have raised the religious aspect," he said. "I don’t think I’m an Islamophobic guy. … I’ve spoken up for equal treatment of Muslims on numerous occasions with numerous different people."
The New York City-based lobbying group Gotham Government Relations, where Seldowitz was a consultant, ended its relationship with the former Obama official Tuesday evening.
"Gotham Government Relations has ended all affiliation with Stuart Seldowitz, an individual who hasn’t contributed to our work in years," a statement on group’s website read. "The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm."