President Biden on Tuesday dismissed the Ivy League law professor put forth as a candidate for an international human rights organization over comments that appeared to invoke antisemitic tropes in criticizing House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the administration was not previously aware of the comments made by James Cavallaro accusing Jeffries of being “Bought. Purchased. Controlled” by pro-Israel lobbying groups.
“We were not aware of the statements and writings,” Price said in a briefing with reporters, adding that the decision was made Tuesday morning to withdraw Cavallaro’s nomination to serve on the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.
The Algemeiner, a non-profit news outlet covering news related to the Jewish world and the Middle East, first reported on Cavallaro’s tweet, which came in response to an article about pro-Israel groups fundraising for the congressman.
The language is similar to comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that were viewed as invoking antisemitic tropes accusing pro-Israel or predominantly Jewish groups using money to exercise control over U.S. politics.
Cavallaro is also reported to have called Israel an apartheid state, a label that is rejected by Biden administration officials.
“His statements clearly do not reflect U.S. policy, they are not a reflection of what we believe and they are inappropriate to say the least,” Price said.
Cavallaro also reportedly published denigrating statements about Democrats and Republican lawmakers, calling Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) “bought and paid for” and describing Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) as “pedantic, self-righteous and pompous,” urging her to “learn from the Palestinian people,” and to resign over her “repeated moral failings.”
The Algemeiner reported that Cavallaro’s referenced social media posts were deleted after being contacted by the media organization.
Cavallaro issued a statement on Twitter saying he was informed by the State Department on Tuesday that his nomination was being nixed “because of my view that the conditions in Israel/Palestine meet the definition of apartheid under international human rights law.”
He added that he removed “many” of his previous tweets because he was “proactively and in good faith addressing concerns the State Department had raised during the vetting process about public expressions of my personal views on U.S. policy.”
But he said those views would not have come up in a role on the human rights board, which he previously served on.
“My nomination would not have affected U.S. policy on Israel. What has the withdrawal of my nomination achieved? The removal from the [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)] of the potential return of a committed, experienced advocate for human rights in the Americas,” he wrote.
Cavallaro, the founder and Executive Director of the University Network for Human Rights, was announced on Friday as the U.S. candidate for commissioner on the IACHR, an agency within the Organization for American States (OAS), for the 2024-2027 term.
The IACHR is headquartered in Washington D.C. and composed of seven members who serve in a personal capacity but are described as being persons of “high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.”
Members are elected by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States from a list of candidates put forth by the governments of member states.
Cavallaro’s nomination for candidate was for one of four positions to be voted on in June 2023.