Oakland, CA – A candidate for Oakland mayor has been widely condemned for making antisemitic comments in mass emails first sent on Sunday. A fellow candidate has been criticized for his initial response to those comments.
On Sunday, Peter Liu, who has twice run for Oakland mayor and never gotten more than 1% of the vote, sent an email to over 60 people, including other candidates and members of the media, slandering and threatening the Jewish Community Relations Council, a Bay Area public affairs group, and congregants of Oakland’s Temple Sinai synagogue. Liu also accused both organizations of unfairly excluding him and other mayoral candidates from an upcoming forum at the temple.
“I am sick of these corrupt Jews and their media allies deceiving the public,” Liu wrote, invoking an antisemitic trope in which Jewish people are accused of nefariously controlling mass media outlets. The watchdog group StopAntisemitism tweeted the email containing the hateful words.
Liu then threatened Temple Sinai, saying in his latest mass email that he would “notify all national veteran organizations” about his grievance against the temple. He followed this up with another email stating, “I am not afraid of jail. I long overcame fear of getting killed, I was a combat veteran. If I die, I die on righteous grounds. I fear no enemies at this point.”
Reached by telephone, Liu told The Oaklanside he believes there is “Jew supremacy” in Oakland and worldwide, echoing conspiracy theories that have long been used to target and persecute Jewish people.
Although Liu denies that his recent comments are inflammatory and said he means no harm to anyone, he has a history of harmful speech aimed at minority groups. In 2018, when he ran for mayor, Liu took to Twitter to blame his dismal performance on “Jews shamelessly rigging elections via owning [and] controlling mass media.” In 2017, he urged a boycott of Disney because they “sneak gay scenes into innocent kids’ movies.” He said he was subsequently banned from Twitter for hate speech. The Oaklandside reviewed Liu’s old tweets, which he saved on Facebook, for this story.
Liu is one of 10 candidates running for mayor this year. His platform includes building giant water slides in parks and allowing people to carry concealed firearms. He describes himself as a self-made millionaire and said his views about the world are shaped by his Christian beliefs.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Liu had sent over 17 responses in the same email chain, lobbing more accusations tinged with hate speech at the Jewish community forum’s organizers, even as fellow candidates and other observers urged him to stop.
The first response to Liu’s email on Sunday was from Seneca Scott, a West Oakland resident and founder of the entertainment company Oakhella who is also running for mayor. Scott replied to Liu’s email within two minutes with just one word: “Protest!?!”
Liu wrote back that they should organize a sideshow, a demonstration of illegal stunt car racing, in front of the temple.
Several people posted screenshots of this exchange on social media. Among them was Cat Brooks, an activist and Oakland mayoral candidate in 2018. Brooks wrote that she interpreted Scott’s comment as an endorsement of Liu’s anti-Jewish views.
“His response was absolutely inappropriate,” Brooks said in an interview with The Oaklandside. “This can’t be divorced from what’s happening nationally, the political base that Trump built.” She said it’s dangerous to endorse the idea of a protest at a Jewish temple at a time when hate crimes are rising. Just days before Scott responded to Liu’s incendiary email, Brooks had taken to Twitter to share “grave concern” about Scott’s candidacy.
Scott told The Oaklandside today that he is “absolutely not antisemitic” and that his reply was meant only to express frustration with the fact that some candidates have been invited to appear in public political forums and others have not. Later in the email thread, he encouraged Liu to apologize “to let folks know you are not making a blanket statement about Jews.”
During his first mayoral run in 2014, Liu criticized Temple Sinai for not inviting him to participate in its mayoral debate. According to emails Liu posted to his extensive Oakland Wiki page, the temple invited only candidates who were receiving support from at least 5% of likely voters in recent independent polls. Liu was not among them.