A former Obama-era National Security Council official was arrested Wednesday after a series of videos shared widely on social media showed him using hate-laden, Islamophobic language against an employee working inside a New York City food cart, police said.
Stuart Seldowitz, 64, pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of fourth-degree hate crime/stalking and one count of second-degree aggravated harassment, court records show.
Seldowitz was released without bail, according to court records. CNN has reached out to his attorney, Scott Laurence Bookstein, for comment.
Before his arrest was announced, Seldowitz confirmed to CNN in an email it is him in the videos, which were recorded by a vendor from inside a food cart on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and appear to be from different days.
In the videos posted online this month, Seldowitz mocks Islam, taunts the man about his citizenship status, accuses him of supporting Hamas and references the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
“You support killing little children,” Seldowitz says to the vendor in one video. The vendor retorts, “You kill children, not me.”
Seldowitz replies, “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian children, you know what? It wasn’t enough!”
The videos come as the US is experiencing an “unprecedented” increase in reported anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias incidents since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, according to the Council on American-Islamic relations.
At the same time, the reports of antisemitic incidents across the country have also spiked, with FBI Director Christopher Wray saying last month the threat was reaching “historic levels” and the Anti-Defamation League reporting a 388% increase in reported incidents in the weeks following October 7, compared to the same period last year.
Tensions over the ongoing war in Gaza have also been high in New York City in recent weeks as pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been taking place.
In one of the videos posted online, Seldowitz tells the vendor, “We’re going to put big signs here saying this guy believes in Hamas.”