By Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, CNN
(CNN) — Former Republican Rep. Liz Cheney on Thursday weighed in on controversial comments from university leaders on antisemitism and genocide, calling their testimony on Capitol Hill this week “disgusting” and “stunning.”
“To see the lack of willingness of these leaders of what are supposed to be the best educational institutions, not just in the United States, but around the world, unwilling to say very clearly, that calling for the genocide of Jews constitutes harassment,” Cheney told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “It is really troubling what we’re seeing on campuses around this country.”
Her comments come days after the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology were pressed by House lawmakers about their responses to alleged incidents of antisemitism on their campuses in the days and weeks following the start of the Israel-Hamas war. During the hearing, the presidents struggled to answer questions about whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated their respective school’s code of conduct on bullying or harassment.
The presidents of Penn and Harvard have since issued statements attempting to clarify their testimony.
“There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students,” Harvard President Claudine Gay said in the new statement posted on X. “Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”
In a short video released Wednesday night, Penn President Liz Magill echoed Gay’s response and said the university would immediately review and clarify its policies on hate speech.
“I was not focused on – but I should have been – the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil. Plain, and simple,” Magill said. “I want to be clear: A call for genocide of Jewish people … would be harassment or intimidation.”
Cheney, who spoke with Tapper while promoting her new book “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning,” also called out Washington state Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who has faced recent criticism over not more forcefully condemning sexual assaults committed by Hamas during its October 7 terror attack.
Jayapal, in comments to CNN’s Dana Bash on ”State of the Union” over the weekend, condemned the rape of Israeli women by Hamas as “horrific” but noted that over 15,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks in Gaza since the start of the war, saying: “I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.”
In a Tuesday statement, Jayapal said that her comment “about balance was not about rape, and not intended to minimize rape and sexual assault in any way.” She went on in the statement to “unequivocally condemn Hamas’ use of rape and sexual violence as an act of war.”
Noting that Jayapal clarified her remarks, Cheney said that “there’s no clarification that can explain and justify anything except complete horror, and standing against the slaughter, the attacks that we saw on October 7.”
“It tells you about a sense in our society today, of people unwilling to stand up against this growing antisemitism, it’s very dangerous,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
CNN’s Haley Talbot, Kevin Liptak, Katie Lobosco, Matt Egan and Donald Judd contributed to this report.
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