In a Monday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mayor Eric Adams falsely accused the Democratic Socialists of America of displaying swastikas and calling for the extermination of the Jews – and some within the organization are accusing the mayor of defamation.
“It really, I think, was despicable,” Adams told co-host Joe Scarborough. “While our Jewish brothers and sisters were mourning the immediate aftermath of the slaughter that we saw in Israel, that, you had the DSA and others carrying swastikas and calling for the extermination of Jewish people. That's not acceptable.”
It was not immediately clear what the mayor was referring to. There is no evidence that any DSA members – many of whom are themselves Jews – have carried swastikas or called for the extermination of Jewish people.
The “DSA rally” that wasn’t
A spokesperson for the mayor said that the mayor was referring to a Palestinian solidarity rally that was held in Times Square on Oct. 8, the day after the Hamas attacks on Israel. That rally has received substantial media attention, largely because one of the speakers – who was a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, not DSA – spoke callously about Israeli victims of the Hamas attacks, and an unidentified attendee at the rally was photographed holding up a phone with a photo of a swastika on the screen.
That rally was organized and sponsored by a number of leftist and pro-Palestine groups – Palestinian Youth Movement, Party for Socialism and Liberation, New York for Palestine, The People's Forum, American Muslims for Palestine, Al-Awda New York, Palestinian Assembly for Liberation and the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism coalition – but not the DSA. The New York City chapter of DSA tweeted about the rally before it happened but otherwise had no involvement. “Tomorrow, October 8, at 1 PM,” the chapter wrote on X. “In solidarity with the Palestinian people and the right to resist 75 years of occupation and apartheid.”
NYC-DSA later deleted the tweet about the rally and released a statement apologizing for any confusion. “We understand why many, including our allies, were shocked by the timing and the tone of this message in a moment of profound fear and grief. We are sorry for the confusion our post caused and for not making our values explicit,” the organization said in a statement on Oct. 10.
Although DSA disavowed the rally, it has not backed off its criticism of Israel or its calls for an immediate ceasefire. “No amount of violence, deprivation, or collective punishment will make everyday Palestinians and Israelis safe,” the Oct. 10 statement said. “We call for an immediate cease-fire to stop the senseless murder. We call for the end of the 75-year Nakba that includes the occupation of the West Bank, the end of the 16-year siege on the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip, and the end of U.S. military aid for occupation and apartheid. That is the only pathway to safety and peace for all in the region.”
On MSNBC, the mayor said that elected officials had attended and sponsored the rally. “Well, you had three elected leaders that joined the march that took place, the first march. They actually were sponsors of it,” he said.
No elected officials, DSA-endorsed or otherwise, attended the Oct. 8 rally. (A spokesperson for the mayor told City & State that the mayor was referring to elected officials attending a different rally.)
The only pro-Palestine demonstration in New York City that elected officials have attended was a protest outside of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s apartment organized by the leftist Jewish groups IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace on Friday. More than 50 protesters were arrested for blocking the entrance to Schumer’s apartment building, including DSA-backed Assembly Members Zohran Mamdani and Marcela Mitaynes.
There is no love lost between the mayor and DSA. The mayor has frequently criticized the organization, its political positions and the elected officials that it has endorsed. At a fundraiser in 2021, he reportedly said, “I’m no longer running against candidates. I’m running against a movement. All across the country, the DSA socialists are mobilizing to stop Eric Adams.”
Jeremy Cohan, the co-chair of DSA’s New York City chapter, blasted Adams’ comments in a text message to City & State.
“As a DSA member, and as a Jew who lost nearly a whole generation of his family in the Nazi Holocaust, I am revolted by this defamation,” he wrote. “At a time of immense grief and fear for our community, and a process of ethnic cleansing unfolding in Gaza, public officials have a special obligation to ensure their words are factually accurate, not to mention humane and compassionate…His absurd attempts to spread lies and mislead the public will not deter us, or any New Yorker, from standing on the right side of history.”
There are also nascent discussions within the organization about whether the mayor’s comments could be grounds for a defamation suit, a source in DSA told City & State.
Progressives outside of DSA also condemned the mayor’s MSNBC comments.
“Our community is suffering immense trauma,” left-wing group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice wrote on X. “Every synagogue in NYC is overwhelmed with grief & pain. And now we have to contend with cynical politicians like Eric Adams trying to weaponize our pain to make headlines, enabling hate-based violence from Bay Ridge to Israel/Palestine,” referring to the assault of a man who had yelled “Free Palestine” in southern Brooklyn.
“This sort of wartime smear just got a woman attacked and child killed in the Chicago area,” Housing Works director of advocacy Seth Pollack wrote on X, referring to the recent murder of a Palestinian American boy in Illinois. “Will @nycmayor not stop until he gets someone killed here?”
Even some of the organization’s critics thought the mayor’s comments went beyond the pale.
“I do not support the DSA and think it's toxic,” political consultant Chris Sosa wrote on X. “But this is an outright lie. The mayor is inflaming tensions and spreading disinformation at a critical moment with zero regard for how that impacts the safety of all New Yorkers.”
– with reporting from Annie McDonough.
This article has been updated to clarify that Jewish Voice for Peace helped organize the protest outside Schumer's apartment building on Friday.