- Organizers of an event claim the Museum of Jewish Heritage banned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis from speaking.
- The event chairman accused the museum of back-peddling once it discovered the Florida firebrand was a speaker.
- The museum denied any ban on the governor and claimed it was a "logistical" decision.
A Jewish museum in NYC that's hosted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio backed out of hosting an event where Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was a scheduled speaker, according to two organizers of an event originally scheduled to be held there next month.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage agreed to host an annual event for Tikvah, a Jewish educational and cultural institution, called the Jewish Leadership Conference, on June 12, which was in the works for months, according to the organizers.
But, according to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal co-authored by Tikvah chairman, Elliott Abrams, and CEO, Eric Cohen, once the museum discovered the list of some 15 speakers included Florida's firebrand governor, the museum issued an ultimatum: it's either DeSantis or us. The museum has denied this was the reasoning.
"We were working closely with the museum on the details for the June 12 event — until, out of the blue, we were told by the museum staff that Mr. DeSantis didn't 'align with the museum's values and its message of inclusivity.' Either we disinvite the governor, they said, or our event was unwelcome," read the article.
The governor was invited to discuss the Sunshine State's "remarkable Jewish renaissance," according to the op-ed, largely attributed to his efforts to allocate state funding for professional security for Jewish day schools and signing a law requiring schools to teach Holocaust curriculum at every grade level in an age-appropriate manner.
The authors of the op-ed accused the museum of "intolerance" and "cancel culture."
Through a representative, the museum denied the allegations, calling the WSJ piece "fictionalized" and insisting that no contract was ever signed and no deposit was made.
"No one was banned or canceled," said the statement, adding that the piece "contains many factual inaccuracies, including fictionalized quotes."
"This is not a free speech or censorship issue. The Tikvah Fund is trying to create a fight where none exists. This was simply a contractual and logistical decision," read the statement, adding that DeSantis and elected officials from across the spectrum are "welcome" to visit the museum.
Abrams, a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and deputy national security advisor in his administration, blasted the museum's defense, claiming that it's not about whether DeSantis is allowed to enter the building, but whether he's allowed to speak there.
"The museum is not telling the truth," Abrams told Insider, adding that Tikvah signed its part of the contract and saying that the museum issued an ultimatum only when it learned that the Florida governor was a speaker. He added that minutiae of the event were being hashed out, including discussions of audio-visuals and catering. "They then refused to finally sign it because they said of DeSantis," Abrams told Insider.
New York City Council member Joe Borelli co-authored a scathing letter to the museum with City Council member Inna Vernikov.
DeSantis faced some controversy earlier this year with the Florida chapter of the Anti-Defamation League calling on him to denounce a neo-Nazi rally in Orlando.
But local Florida Republican politicians have championed the popular governor's relationship with the Jewish community.
"He's been a friend of the Jewish community through and through and it's an absolute shame that the Jewish community did not put politics aside and be thankful for what he's done, whether they're Republicans or Democrats," Bal Harbour, Miami, Republican mayor Gabe Groisman, a former Democrat, told Insider, adding that he's traveled to Israel with the governor on numerous occasions.
The governor's spokesperson Christina Pushaw told Insider via email, "He has stood with Florida's Jewish community not only in his words but also in his actions."
Adding, "As long as Governor DeSantis is in office, Florida will continue to be a safe and welcoming home for the Jewish people. That is the message the governor has always delivered and plans to deliver in New York City."
Observers are waiting to see if there's any internal fallout within the museum, which has at least one prominent Republican supporter, George Klein, who's been a longtime benefactor of the museum since it opened 25 years ago.