Following an eight-month-long delay, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of noted anti-Semitism scholar Deborah Lipstadt to be the State Department’s envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism.
The nomination now heads to the full Senate.
The vote was 13 to nine with two Republican Senators, Mitt Romney of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, voting in favour. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote was closed to the public.
Biden had nominated Lipstadt in July to lead the State Department’s office for combating anti-Semitism. Jewish groups across the spectrum hailed the nomination and strongly advocated for Lipstadt, an Emory University professor who has taught about antisemitism for 40 years and published numerous books on the subject. Last year, she served as an expert witness in the Charlottesville civil suit against the organizers of the Unite the Right that turned deadly.
But Lipstadt’s nomination languished after Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, objected to her nomination. He was offended, he said, by a tweet she wrote in which she said his comments about the Jan. 6 insurrection amounted to “white supremacy/nationalism.”
“You’ve never met me. You don’t know what’s in my heart. Do you?” he said at a hearing on her confirmation in February, in which he said he would not vote to confirm her.
Lipstadt acknowledged her tweet was not nuanced and vowed to not conduct diplomacy by tweet. She emphasised her criticism was aimed at Johnson’s words not his character.
“I’m sorry if I made it in a way that it could be assumed to be…of the person personally,” she said.