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In Michigan, some Arab American leaders declined to meet Biden's campaign manager

Biden's campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodriguez speaks on Nov. 7, 2023. Chávez Rodriguez was in Michigan on Friday where some Arab American leaders declined to meet her because of the Gaza conflict.
Lynne Sladky
Biden's campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodriguez speaks on Nov. 7, 2023. Chávez Rodriguez was in Michigan on Friday where some Arab American leaders declined to meet her because of the Gaza conflict.

Updated January 26, 2024 at 7:33 PM ET

President Biden's campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodriguez planned to meet with leaders from the Arab American community in Michigan on Friday, but some of those leaders declined the invitation because of Biden's support for Israel in its war in Gaza.

It's the latest sign of the difficult political terrain for Biden in a key battleground state for the November election where Biden's refusal to call for a ceasefire has angered people alarmed by the rising civilian death toll in Gaza.

Osama Siblani, publisher of Arab American News, said he took the campaign up on its invitation to meet with Chávez Rodriguez, despite the reluctance of others.

"I told her that my community does not want me to meet with you, but I want to to meet with you, look you in the eyes," Siblani said in an interview.

"I said, you know, look: we feel like we've been betrayed by the president, that we voted for him in 2020. We're not going to do it again," he said, describing the conversation as "very blunt" and Chávez Rodriguez as being "very respectful."

The Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Protests against Biden over the conflict have become a regular feature at and near Biden's political events. This week, protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza interrupted a Virginia rally about abortion rights more than 10 times. Earlier this month, a major political speech at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston was also interrupted.

Some other leaders ruled out meeting with Chávez Rodriguez

Assad Turfe, deputy Wayne County executive, said he had been asked to organize a meeting with elected officials. But he said the leaders were too angry about the Biden administration's policy to meet.

"I made the ultimate decision to cancel the meeting in the best interest of the community," Turfe told NPR.

Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said on X (formerly known as Twitter) that his residents want an immediate ceasefire.

"This is not a moment for electoral politics," he posted. "Community engagement is powerful when it is used to shape policies that save lives - these conversations must be had with policy-makers, not campaign staff."

In Michigan, Chávez Rodriguez also met with leaders from the Hispanic and Black communities, a source familiar with the meetings said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the private meetings.

Chávez Rodriguez and other senior campaign officials have been traveling across the country to key battleground states like Michigan to talk about the campaign and meet with local officials, and today's meetings were part of that effort, the source said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.

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