The FBI has been made aware of threatening, anti-Semitic online posts about a candidate for Seattle City Council, the American Jewish Committee has condemned the posts and other candidates have spoken out.
The anonymous posts were made on the website 8chan about District 2 candidate Ari Hoffman and were reported to the FBI by an organization that monitors anti-Semitic and other activity online.
8chan is a notorious message-board website. The man accused of a deadly shooting at a San Diego-area synagogue in April is thought to have posted a hateful screed there shortly before the incident.
“The FBI is aware of the threats against Mr. Hoffman,” Jillian Voigt, spokeswoman for the bureau’s Seattle office, said in an email. “We are in regular contact with local authorities, and will take appropriate action if information develops to suggest a potential federal violation.”
An initial post included Hoffman’s name and a photo of him with his family, with the author claiming to live on their street and asking others what to do, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit.
Responses included a comment encouraging the author to kill Hoffman and his family and other threatening, anti-Semitic comments, according to MEMRI, which discovered the posts Monday and reported them to the FBI, said Elliot Zweig, deputy director of the organization founded by a former Israeli military-intelligence officer.
Hoffman learned about the posts after he returned home and found a note from a Seattle Police Department detective, he said.
“It was pretty horrifying,” Hoffman said, expressing concern for his wife and children and noting he has security guards at campaign events. “This is just life as a Jew and it’s unfortunate.”
The detective was working on loan to the FBI’s local joint terrorism task force, SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb said.
“This is under the purview of the FBI,” Whitcomb said.
The American Jewish Committee issued a statement Tuesday urging Seattle leaders to condemn the posts and for law-enforcement authorities to investigate, and other District 2 candidates have aired concerns.
“Violence and trauma have affected our South Seattle communities for too long. All types of intimidation and threats made against all people must stop,” candidate Phyllis Porter wrote on Facebook.
“No one should be targeted because of their identity, religious or otherwise, and as a Jewish person myself I know all too well why these threats should be taken very seriously,” Tammy Morales said in a statement.
Other candidates in the race also have conveyed their support for Hoffman, he said. The police have said he can expect prioritized security at his home and events, he said.
Council members have received vile and violent messages on multiple occasions in recent years. For example, council members who voted against the sale of a street for an arena project in 2016 were told in an email to “end yourselves.”