Ex-White House Adviser's Viral Islamophobic Rants Under Investigation by Hate Crimes Unit

Stuart Seldowitz was filmed repeatedly harassing a food cart employee in New York. The cart's co-owner told VICE News he hopes Seldowitz apologizes.
Mohamed Hussein (L) and his employer Islam Moustafa (R) said their food cart was repeatedly harassed by a man, since identified as former White House Stuart Seldowitz.
Mohamed Hussein (L) and his employer Islam Moustafa (R) said their food cart was repeatedly targeted by a man since identified as former White House adviser Stuart Seldowitz. Photo by Alyza Enriquez.

NEW YORK CITY - New York police’s hate crimes unit is investigating after videos surfaced showing a former White House adviser making Islamophobic comments to a food cart employee in Manhattan. 

Police told VICE News its hate crimes task force launched an investigation after the videos showing Stuart Seldowitz calling a worker at Adam Halal Food Cart a “terrorist" went viral Tuesday. The videos posted to X, formerly Twitter, also show Seldowitz describing the prophet Muhammad as a “rapist,” and saying that the killing of 4,000 Palestinian children in the Israel-Hamas war “wasn’t enough.”


The death toll of Palestinian children has now reached 5,000, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health, since Israel began its military bombardment of the enclave, following the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on Israel, killing at least 1,200 and taking 200 people hostage.  

Seldowitz has not responded to VICE News’ requests for comment. He told the New York Times he was “upset” that one of the food cart employees allegedly expressed support for Hamas. The employee in question, Mohamed Hussein, told VICE News that did not happen.  

“I got rather upset and I’ve said things to him, that in retrospect, I probably regret, though — that I do regret,” Seldowitz told the Times. He also said he’s not Islamophobic. 

“I have many people who are Muslims and Arabs and so on, who know me very well and who know that I’m not prejudiced against them,” he said. 

Hussein, 24, spoke to VICE News using his employer Islam Moustafa as a translator because he doesn’t speak much English. He was soft-spoken and shied away from journalists on scene. 

He said he was on the receiving end of three of Seldowitz’s rants, all of which he filmed; his boss said a night shift employee was also harassed by Seldowitz. 

Hussein said during the first encounter Seldowitz asked him where he was from and he responded that he was from Egypt, thinking Seldowitz was a customer. 


“He started telling him, you support Hamas, you're a terrorist. You guys love to kill Jewish people,” Moustafa said. Hussein said he also warned other food cart vendors in the area about Seldowitz. The videos show Seldowitz calling Hussein “ignorant” for not knowing English, telling him he’s going to be deported, and saying Egyptian intelligence agency Mukhabarat “will get your parents.” 

“If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough,” he said. 

Hussein said after the attacks he felt “very bad” and was unable to continue smiling as he served other customers. 

Moustafa said a customer called police during one of the encounters but police did not show up. He said his night shift worker told him police did come when he called them but told him, “This is normal. It happens in New York City.” VICE News has asked New York police to comment on those allegations but has not received a response. 

Moustafa said he’d like to know “what’s the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech in this country.” 

Seldowitz is a three-time winner of the State Department’s Superior Honor award, according to his now-deleted biography on Gotham’s website. He was acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate under former President Barack Obama and was deputy director/senior political officer in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1999 to 2003. 


Moustafa said he feels “ashamed” that someone in Seldowitz’s position would harass a 24-year-old and blame it on him. 

“I would appreciate it if he comes and apologizes and says that he made a mistake and says the truth, not to blame it on Mohammed.” 

Since the videos came to light, the lobbying firm Seldowitz worked for, Gotham, has cut ties with him and denounced his rants as “disgusting.” Founder David Schwartz told City & State that he would represent the vendors if they wanted to sue Seldowitz. 

“I’m absolutely outraged by this video,” he said, adding that Seldowitz wasn’t an employee of the firm; a press release issued by Gotham in November 2022 named Seldowitz foreign affairs chair. 

Seldowitz was also a senior consultant in humanitarian diplomacy at GDC Inc., a logistics company whose chief executive officer Moti Kahana describes it as a “war zone Uber.” In a since-deleted tweet, Kahana, who is Israeli American, said Seldowitz has “saved thousands of Muslim lives in Afghanistan and Syria.” 

He later tweeted, “While I cannot technically fire an outside consultant, I can simply stop working with him.” 

The company is currently in the midst of a campaign to supply the Israeli Defense Forces. 

New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, tweeted that Seldowitz’s comments were “disgusting, hateful, and New York won’t tolerate it.” 


Located in the Upper East Side, Adam Halal Food Cart was bustling with customers, neighbors, and reporters Wednesday morning, after the videos showing Seldowitz’s tirades went viral. People stopped by to show their support for the employees running it while others placed orders online. 

Neighbor Pamela Wiznitzer said the food truck is a staple in the community and she considers its workers her friends. 

“They're the kindest, most respectful, sweetest, funniest individuals,” she said, adding there’s “no validity” to Seldowitz’s comments. 

“They know I'm Jewish and they want to make sure that I'm OK.”  

She said Seldowitz’s comments show he has “hatred in his heart” but his views are “fringe.”

“This New York response just goes to show that you really don't mess with our people, you don't mess with our communities. We look out for each other.” 

Seldowitz deleted his LinkedIn account on Tuesday. 

In a podcast in October, he was interviewed about his views on the Israel-Hamas war by Amy Peikoff, former chief policy officer of Parler, a “free speech” social media network favored by right-wing users because it lacked content moderation. 

During the interview, he praised the Israeli Defense Forces as being a “moral” army that would do everything possible to minimize civilian deaths. 

He also said it’s “very hard” for Americans to relate to Palestinians “because their culture, their history, their religion, and so on is so different than most of us.”