Yesterday I wrote about Julia Salazar, a Democratic Socialist running for a State Senate seat in New York. In case you missed that, Tablet magazine did a deep dive on Salazar and found that elements of her personal biography don’t add up. Salazar has claimed that she was a) an immigrant from Colombia and b) Jewish, but neither claim appears to be true. In fact, she was born in Miami and up until 2012, she was an outspoken, pro-life Christian. Yesterday, after Tablet published its piece, Salazar posted a lengthy statement on her campaign website attempting to correct the record:
First, the piece implies that I have misrepresented my identity as an immigrant by claiming that I was born in Colombia. However, as I stated clearly in a transcribed interview with reporter Emma Whitford on May 5th, at the outset of my campaign, I made it crystal clear that I had been born in Miami. I also confirmed this fact to the JTA earlier this week, when I realized that there was ambiguity about where I’d been born. At the time I was born, my parents had been living in Colombia, where my father was born and immigrated from, before settling permanently in Florida when I was still a small child.
The fact that my parents traveled with me between Colombia and the US as a small child produced confusion for some people about where I was born. One member of my staff was even unknowingly unclear on this, and as a result they incorrectly told some reporters that I had been born in Colombia and was therefore a naturalized citizen. I should have been more vigilant in checking and correcting the record on this; in the whirlwind of running this race, I haven’t been able to read everything published about me nor about the race, and lacked the foresight to be explicitly clear about the details of where I was born versus where my family lived (and where most of my family still lives in Colombia).
Salazar did say she was born in Miami in that May 5th interview so that’s a point in her favor. However, what’s the explanation for this statement caught on video?
More campaigning on your "identity" as an "immigrant."
"I immigrated to this country with my family when I was very little. In Colombia, my mom raised me as a single mother…" 0:37 seconds in. (HT to @liquidpaprtrail for the vid.)https://t.co/vHptsYBO3Phttps://t.co/FkBaJEk3HT pic.twitter.com/JhD818WlKw
— pplswar (@pplswar) August 25, 2018
What are people supposed to take from “I’m a Colombian-American” if not that she is Colombian? Also, “I immigrated to this country” can’t mean ‘I was born here but traveled to Colombia as a child.’ It would be very easy to say, ‘I was born in Miami,’ but she doesn’t say that.
Salazar’s explanation for the various articles which have described her as Colombian is that someone on her staff was confused about her biography and spoke to reporters on her behalf. But the Intercept, which did a profile of her, says Salazar herself told them she was a Colombian immigrant. In fact, the Intercept has now added a correction to the profile it published:
An earlier version of this piece referred to Julia Salazar as a Colombian immigrant, based on claims she made to The Intercept and elsewhere. She refers to herself as a “proud immigrant” on her campaign website. The story has been updated to remove that reference, and to make clear that while Salazar said she emigrated from Colombia, she was in fact born in Miami.
The link in that paragraph above goes to Salazar’s website where she did, in fact, call herself a “proud immigrant.” That has now been scrubbed as Stephen Miller noticed last night. Where the site once described her as a “proud immigrant” it now says she is “a proud daughter of an immigrant father.”
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) August 25, 2018
It’s one thing to claim some staffer got your bio wrong when talking to the media and you overlooked it because you had too much to do. It’s quite another thing to claim the bio on your own website, written in the first person, got overlooked. That’s simply not plausible.
As for her claim to be Jewish, Salazar doubles down on that too:
The truth here is simple: my father was of Sephardic Jewish heritage; my mother was nominally raised Catholic, but religion had little place in our household. It was in college, in the wake of my father’s death when I was 18, that I began to deeply explore my Jewish roots, participate in Jewish communal life, and commit myself to observing Judaism. That experience became an important part of who I am today — part of my social and spiritual life, but also part of my politics and moral compass.
Completely left out of this history is the fact that her brother says no one in the family was Jewish and the fact that she was a conservative Christian until relatively recently. From Tablet:
When reached by phone, Alex Salazar, the candidate’s older brother and the operator of a number of Florida mango farms, said that one of their father’s brothers was a Jesuit priest. (He also seemed to know very little about her campaign and seemed surprised when I told him she stood a good chance of winning.) “There was nobody in our immediate family who was Jewish … my father was not Jewish, we were not raised Jewish,” he said…
Social media postings, various articles, and the recollections of people who knew her at Columbia University show that in her early 20s Salazar was a right-wing pro-Israel Christian. In 2012 and into 2013, she was the president of Columbia Right to Life, the campus’s leading anti-abortion group…
One acquaintance who knew Salazar during her time as a CUFI activist said that she wasn’t shy about her religious faith, dropping the occasional “praise Jesus” into casual conversation.
As I said yesterday, people can and do change their religion and their politics. But Salazar’s story, even the one she published yesterday, glosses over the period of her life when she clearly identified as Christian. In fact, it was only about 5 years ago that she rather suddenly announced she was Jewish.
Her explainer concludes, “I am not running on my identity. I’m running on my record.” That’s a good line, but no one in today’s far-left Democratic party can escape identity politics. The problem Salazar has is that she has been caught playing fast and loose with her own story.