For almost two months now, The Harvard Crimson Editorial Board has tirelessly upheld journalistic standards by publishing an ideologically diverse set of perspectives on the tragic events in Israel and Palestine. Their jobs are never easy and oft thankless, and I have nothing but admiration and respect for their work.
In publishing the inflammatory rambles of Representative Elise M. Stefanik ’06, however, The Crimson erred gravely.
Stefanik’s propaganda dispatch-turned opinion piece is riddled with incendiary inaccuracies and mischaracterizations befitting of her general political trajectory but unbecoming of our student newspaper. Platforming them is a disservice to our community, the historical record, and the values journalists hold.
Upon publication, Stefanik’s piece featured at least one crude factual error, citing a since-corrected civilian death toll of more than 1,000 on Oct. 7 (the true number is closer to 850, per a revision from Israeli officials). It also parroted a controversial claim that Hamas “beheaded babies” — that is, cut their heads off — referring to a source that could not confirm whether decapitation was the cause of death.
This allegation is currently deemed unverifiable by multiple sources absent further evidence, including Snopes and the Washington Post — as well as, bizarrely, a CNN article The Crimson originally hyperlinked to, entitled “Israeli official says government cannot confirm babies were beheaded in Hamas attack.”
There is little reason to exaggerate heinous acts to make them appear more heinous; there is no excuse for a reputable newspaper to publicize those who do so.
On campus matters, too, Stefanik’s claims and The Crimson’s decision to publish them must be questioned. For The Crimson to allow Stefanik to write that the University has “vehemently defended free speech when that speech calls for the death of Jews,” while hyperlinking to articles about “from the river to the sea,” borders on malpractice.
Firstly, because the University has not “defended” the hyperlinked speech. Just because students have not been suspended or organizations disbanded does not mean that their speech has been defended: University President Claudine Gay has staunchly condemned such chants, much to the chagrin of organizers. Suggesting otherwise hours before Gay enters a second coming of the House Un-American Activities Committee is blatantly irresponsible.
Secondly, and crucially, because characterizing “from the river to the sea” as a chant calling “for the death of the Jews” is absurd: It ignores the chant’s history and meaning; the intent and values of organizers who chant it, including Jewish ones; and the explicit opposition to violence against civilians and all discrimination that has been voiced repeatedly by pro-Palestinian organizers on campus. It distorts campus history to misrepresent vigils as pogroms, protests as hateful marches, and immortalizes it all on the local paper of record.
That Stefanik attached her byline to such lie-ridden gibberish is unsurprising. The far-right Republican made a dubious name for herself by staunchly refusing to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election even after the Jan. 6 attack; she has promoted the violently antisemitic and racist “great replacement” theory and dabbled in QAnon rhetoric like “pedo grifters.”
Stefanik, like Elon Musk, belongs to a select club of peddlers of ethnonationalist authoritarianism who, despite regularly flirting with antisemitism, have found public redemption in attacking pro-Palestinian organizers. She might suggestively deride George Soros, or endorse a candidate who in 2021 called Hitler “the kind of leader we need today” — but at least she’ll stand up to college kids!
While such opportunistic hypocrisy is to be expected from Stefanik, it remains jarring that The Crimson would dignify a barely-passing excuse for a fundraising email with one of its coveted opinion slots, as if the congresswoman was an elucidating voice, a decent writer, or an expert of any sort in anything pertinent to current debates.
The Editorial Board once described Stefanik as set on a “relentless pursuit of political influence at a glaring cost to morality” and “the worst we could be.” We would do well to heed our own advice.
Guillermo S. Hava ’23-’24, a former Crimson Editorial Chair, is a Government and Philosophy concentrator in Winthrop House. He joined the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee as an organizer in the fall of 2023.