GEICO Drops Corporate Diversity Event With Speaker Notorious For Anti-Semitic Rhetoric After Backlash

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Insurance company GEICO has dropped former Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour from an internal event sponsored by its Diversity & Inclusion division over concerns about Sarsour’s long track record of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

GEICO’s D&I divison had originally planned an event celebrating Middle Eastern and North African Heritage Month with an event featuring Sarsour. Screenshots of an email sent by the company to employees were shared on Twitter by StopAntisemitism.org Wednesday. “We are horrified a respectable company like @GEICO would choose to feature antisemitic bigot @lsarsour to represent the MENA region. Sarsour had to step down from the Women’s March due to her open Jew hatred! What was [VP and Chief Diversity Officer] Carl Tims thinking here?!”

Both StopAntisemitism.org and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on GEICO to remove Sarsour from the event. “@LSarsour’s extensive record of trafficking in incendiary, antisemitic comments about the Jewish people and Israel makes her utterly unfit to be the face of @GEICO’s ‘diversity & inclusion’ campaign,” the AJC wrote. “We call on the company to reconsider her participation.” Jewish community advocacy group StandWithUs and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also posted Twitter threads showcasing Sarsour’s history of anti-Semitic remarks.

GEICO responded to the backlash Thursday, announcing on Twitter that it was removing Sarsour from its event. “We apologize to our employees, customers, and others for our initial plan to invite Linda Sarsour to speak at our internal event celebrating Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Heritage Month,” the company wrote, adding that it had already canceled the event Tuesday. “GEICO does not condone hatred of any kind, and we do not stand for or with anyone who does. We are not aligned with any form of exclusion. We will continue to celebrate MENA Heritage Month in a way that aligns with our values.”

Jewish leaders praised GEICO’s course-correct:

  • Jonathan Greenblatt: “Glad @Geico heard our concerns and quickly reversed course. Major companies should not partner with individuals who repeatedly espouse #antisemitic tropes. @ADL welcomes this development.”
  • Avi Mayer, AJC Managing Director of Public Affairs: “We spoke up and now @GEICO gets it: @LSarsour represents hate and has no place in an event celebrating diversity and inclusion. Bravo!”
  • B’nai B’rith International: “While we remain shocked that @GEICO invited vile anti-Semite Linda Sarsour to represent the MENA region, we are glad the co. listened to the Jewish community and canceled its event. Orgs. must take steps to prevent similar missteps, e.g., adopting @TheIHRA def. of #antisemitism.”
  • Former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind: “@GEICO did the right thing and wasted no time in getting rid of Sarsour’s toxicity. Let this be a lasting lesson: Linda Sarsour is a shameless racist, antisemite who cannot be cleansed of her hatred without fully repenting. Until then, good riddance!”

Sarsour was previously forced to step down from the Women’s March in 2019, along with fellow co-chairs Tamika Mallory, and Bob Bland over concerns about their anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT rhetoric. Sarsour herself has repeatedly used anti-Semitic rhetoric in public, including multiple occasions at the March itself. She has also made anti-Semitic and other offensive remarks repeatedly on social media. As StandWithUs pointed out in its 2020 thread, Sarsour in 2011 said she wished she could take away the vaginas of Islam critics Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which StandWithUs noted was especially offensive because Hirsi Ali is a survivor of female genital mutilation. She attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a “typical white feminist” in 2019 for criticizing Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and promoted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about the apartment building collapse in Surfside, Florida, in June 2021.

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