Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, called for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Tuesday, blasting him for not condemning the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as being antisemitic.
Referencing reporting from the Jewish Insider, Foxx said in a statement that Cardona’s refusal to acknowledge the chant used by pro-Palestine demonstrators as antisemitic amounts to “cowardly evasion.”
“Unfortunately, this is just the latest example in a long record of abject failure,” said Foxx, who serves as chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, in the statement. The remarks that Foxx was referring to came during Tuesday comments to reporters from Jewish media outlets.
During those remarks, Cardona stated that the department does have a strategy to address antisemitism that is focused specifically on that issue, adding that no student should feel they “can’t be who they are unapologetically because of the conditions on campus.”
In a statement provided to K-12 Dive on Wednesday, a department spokesperson said, “Secretary Cardona has been consistent that calls for genocide must never be tolerated, that antisemitism can include anti-Zionist statements, and that university leaders have a responsibility to act when students feel unsafe on campus.”
“He and the Department are acutely aware that many find the chant threatening and antisemitic,” the spokesperson said. “Students should never feel unsafe on campuses, and the Department’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to investigate universities to ensure they address a hostile learning environment to ensure the safety of all students.”
Cardona received further criticism from some followers on X, formerly known as Twitter, for not including antisemitism in a Tuesday post in which he said said he has been "deeply disturbed" by increases in anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian harassment in schools.
However, he has previously addressed antisemitism specifically in regard to the Education Department’s Antisemitism Awareness Campaign and efforts to address discrimination against Jewish students.
I’ve been deeply disturbed by the recent spike in anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and anti-Palestinian harassment in schools. And we’ve been tragically reminded how hatred can all too easily turn into violence.— Secretary Miguel Cardona (@SecCardona) February 6, 2024
Hate has no place in our nation’s classrooms or on our college campuses. https://t.co/ihU2eYMofD
Foxx's demand for Cardona's resignation comes as House Republicans failed in a Tuesday night vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over alleged failures on immigration and border security.
In addition to the charges concerning antisemitism, Foxx alleged that the U.S. Education Department under Cardona had directed resources toward “unconstitutional schemes rooted in a willful disdain for the Constitution and the rule of law.”
She further said it had engaged in “bungling and deliberate misuse of taxpayer dollars” and “willfully exceeded its statutory authority” in a “spending spree” that led to the agency “failing its two most recent audits.” Those audits of the department’s fiscal year financial statements, conducted by the firm KPMG LLC, were the subject of a Jan. 17 letter to Cardona from Foxx and Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Pennsylvania.
Foxx also criticized the department’s handling of the recent overhaul of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The rollout of the new form has been plagued by delays and technical glitches, leading to concerns about tight turnaround for colleges to get award offers to students and for students to make decisions on where to attend.