DeSantis Cancelled from NY Museum of Jewish Heritage Event in 'Purely Political Move'

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was slated to speak in June in front of the Jewish Leadership Conference at New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage until he was suddenly disinvited, according to the event’s backers. Evidently, he didn’t “align with the museum’s values and its message of inclusivity.”

Code words for, “We’re trying to be woke, so take a hike.”

Elliott Abrams and Eric Cohen are co-chairs of the Jewish Leadership Conference, a gathering set for June 12 and backed by the conservative Tikvah Fund. They explain in a May 5 Wall Street Journal editorial:

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.

So they moved their event. Good for them! They weren’t about to go quietly, though, brutally unloading on the museum:

We know things are bad when a Jewish institution — in this case, a museum whose purpose is to keep Jewish heritage alive by remembering the Holocaust — turns on its own and tries to make a virtue of its own intolerance. What drives our elite institutions — museums, universities, large corporations, the media — to shut down speakers and ideas that question progressive orthodoxy? In many cases, the explanation is sheer cowardice.

Since that piece ran, there’s been a lot of back and forth between the two sides. On May 9, the Museum wrote its own letter and had all sorts of lame technical reasons why they reneged on signing the contract after they had written it. There’s this outright falsehood:

Our charter does not allow rentals for purely political or religious reasons, and this is made clear to anyone who requests to rent our space.

Wrong. In the past, they’ve hosted Chuck Schumer, AOC, former NY governor Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, among others. Nary a political soul among that crowd, I’m sure!

Once The Museum spat out that whopper, it was hard to believe anything else they cited as reasons for the cancellation: scheduling, resources, security—all things you think would have been worked out before they sent out the contract for signature. If Michelle Obama wanted to make an appearance, I’m betting they’d figure it out.

Nice tweet, but you still don’t explain why the event was canceled.  Adding to the ping-pong nature of this controversy, Elliot and Cohen replied Tuesday, again in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, this time stating that the cancellation “was entirely a political decision.”

Phew. My head is starting to spin.

Why would a museum of all places think it’s appropriate to wave their “woke” flag? You’d think they’d have noticed that that course has often been disastrous lately for corporations (think: Disney). And what about DeSantis scares them so much? The Museum never says (except for weak word salad excuses like, he “would undermine its mission of teaching tolerance”).

They’re already feeling the heat, though as rabbis decried the decision:

Donors weighed in too, as these letters to the Wall Street Journal show:

I helped raise funds for the Museum of Jewish Heritage in the 1990s, and it saddens me to learn that the institution has lost sight of its purpose. Like the ACLU that many of us once supported—even as it defended neo-Nazis’ right to march in Skokie, Ill.—wokeness has hijacked the brand. The museum’s CEO should know that his denial of Tikvah makes it more comfortable for me and fellow supporters to file his next contribution solicitation into the garbage pail. – Philip Gotthelf

And another:

The decision to ban Mr. DeSantis from speaking at the museum for a conference is a sad mistake that borders on cancel culture. Providing a platform to an organization doesn’t mean you endorse the speakers to the event or their views. And even if you think it does, Mr. DeSantis—whatever you make of his other views or actions—is no anti-Semite or Holocaust denier. Sadly, this politicizes a precious institution dedicated to remembering and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. – Abraham H. Foxman – Bergen County, N.J. Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and former board member of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, was national director of the Anti-Defamation League (1987-2015).

All these back-and-forths and dueling narratives make for interesting fodder, but in the end, it’s a weird look that a museum that promotes tolerance apparently chooses to be intolerant itself.