Two college students became the object of the Internet's ire after one shared a video of the other confronting Chelsea Clinton at a Friday evening vigil for victims of Thursday's white supremacist terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. The young women, Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf, both seniors at New York University, were subjected to hours of abuse on social media directed by pundits and political operatives from both major parties.
"This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world," Dweik, who is Palestinian and Muslim, told a nonplussed Clinton at the Friday vigil. "The 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there."
Dweik was referring to Clinton's February 10th tweet that many have argued falsely branded Omar's criticisms of AIPAC antisemitic and which many also read as an insinuation that Omar is not a true American.
Condemnation was swift from all corners.
Yashar Ali, a New York Magazine and Huffington Post contributor associated with the "ex-Muslim" community, led the pile-on, tweeting to his 360,000 followers, "This is a shameful display...It's disgusting and unfair to blame Chelsea for the massacre in New Zealand because she tweeted about [Ilhan Omar]'s tweets."
Ali was soon followed by Caleb Hull, a Republican political operative, who described the actions of the grieving Dweik as "NUTS." 19 of the 49 victims were, like Dweik, Palestinian.
Natalie Johnson, the Deputy Press Secretary for the GOP House Conference, took Hull's cue and dug through Asaf's social media accounts, turning up photos of two anti-Zionist t-shirts which she then used to claim that Asaf, who is Israeli and Jewish, is antisemitic.
Johnson's attack was echoed by The Hoarse Whisperer, a popular liberal "humor" account.
Twitter "humorists," clickbait journalists, and Republican operatives were not the only ones to steer mob outrage against Dweik and Asaf. Seasoned liberal activists were also eager to join the fray.
Charlotte Clymer, a popular liberal pundit who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, called Dweik's remarks "incredibly disturbing."
Liberal comedian Kathy Griffin, whose career took a nosedive after she posed with a replica of the President's decapitated head, was outright abusive to Dweik, calling her a "fucking pussy" for having the temerity to complain about receiving rape and death threats from angry Clinton defenders.
By Saturday afternoon, the episode had garnered the attention of New York City mayor and potential Democratic hopeful Bill de Blasio, who chimed in to defend his former boss's daughter's honor against the "irresponsible" students.
Such responses and the hate speech they engendered towards the students reveal how deeply white supremacy and anti-Muslim bias runs through U.S. political culture among Democrats and Republicans alike. When faced with a choice to either respect the grief of a young Muslim woman the day after 49 Muslims were massacred or to protect the feelings of a powerful white woman, the media and political establishment rushed to defend the white woman and to speak over a woman of color using ableist and gendered slurs.
For their part, Dweik and Asaf say that they were not directly faulting Clinton for the New Zealand attack. Rather, Clinton has "contributed to an environment of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism," Asaf told the Jewish Worker. "She needs to take accountability for that before she poses an ally."
Dweik later wrote on Twitter, "I didn’t tell Chelsea Clinton she was the one who put a gun to Muslims’ heads. I said and continue to say that by jumping on the right-wing bandwagon and vilifying Ilhan Omar, she fed into the exact discourse we were at the vigil to protest."
The pair expanded on their position in an op-ed published by Buzzfeed Saturday evening. "When we saw Chelsea, we saw an opportunity to have her ear and confront her on her false charge of anti-Semitism against our only Black, Muslim, Somali, and refugee member of Congress," they write. "We took our chance to speak truth to power."
"This is not about left and right. This is about people who do and do not have power, and how those with power use it."
Donald Trump, Jr. also came to Clinton's defense, writing on Twitter "We should all be condemning antisemitism and all forms of hate."
Trump's father has strongly implied that Jewish Americans are more loyal to Israel than the U.S. on numerous occasions, including yesterday, when he again suggested that Jews should abandon the Democratic party for its alleged hostility towards Israel.
Trump received no condemnation from members of Congress, his son, nor Chelsea Clinton.
UPDATED THROUGHOUT—3/16 9:25PM