Obama campaigns for Biden in Philadelphia
Obama campaigns for Biden in PhiladelphiaReuters

Former President Barack Obama called out celebrities who post antisemitic conspiracy theories online. calling them “dangerous” while campaigning in Pittsburgh, the site of the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.

Stumping for Democrats in tight statewide elections next week, Obama decried the recent assault on Paul Pelosi, the husband of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, by an illegal immigrant from Canada who allegedly spread antisemitic theories, and warned that political leaders who make light of such violence put others at risk.

But he said the dangers of political discourse extended beyond politicians.

“Whether it’s out of malice or ignorance, we’ve seen recently big celebrities reposting vile antisemitic conspiracy theories online,” Obama said. “And you don’t have to be a student of history to understand how dangerous that is, and how unacceptable it is.”

Obama appeared to be referring to a slate of antisemitic conspiracy theories spread recently by popular black entertainers and athletes, including rapper Kanye West, NBA star Kyrie Irving and former NFL linebacker K. J. Wright.

“I don’t know when we decided that we were just going to believe everything we read on the internet,” he said. “Here’s a tip for you. If you read or see something online that has some grand theory about how some particular group, whether it’s black folks or white, or Jews, or Catholics or immigrants or gays, if you read or see someone says they’re the cause all your problems, then it’s safe to say it is garbage. It is a lie. It is a dangerous poison.”

Obama did not mention the 2018 massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue complex. Last month, the community commemorated the four-year anniversary of the attack, in which 11 Jews were murdered by an alleged white supremacist who posted antisemitic content online.

Obama is blitzing swing states ahead of what might be close midterm elections Tuesday. He was campaigning Saturday for Democrats, including Josh Shapiro, the Jewish attorney general who is running for Pennsylvania governor; John Fetterman, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate; and House candidates Summer Lee and Chris Deluzio.