More than 70 State Department officials signed a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, urging him to fire “an openly antisemitic department employee who continues to have a home in our midst,” Foreign Policy reported.
The letter was organized by Jewish employees of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.
Fritz Berggren, a U.S. foreign service officer, has a private website in which he has published video and audio files attacking Jews as “vipers” among other hateful statements, and calling for an exclusively Christian state since 2017.
Anger has built over the six months since it was revealed that Berggren had maintained the bigoted website.
“Fritz Berggren’s continued employment is an affront to all of us and the values we share. While there may be HR processes underway, they do not appear to be having an impact and are apparently proceeding very slowly as Berggren has been posting this content since at least 2017.”
“Not only is his propagation of antisemitic ideas highly disturbing and offensive to Jewish and non-Jewish employees alike, but as Jewish employees, we feel his presence at the Department is threatening,” the letter reads.
“It’s really quite appalling and shocking,” a senior State Department employee told Foreign Policy. “They say there are First Amendment issues, but at some point, that can’t be the right answer.”
The letter comes as concerns mount about antisemitism in the State Department; on July 27, a swastika was found carved near the office of the special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism. The elevator was located within a security perimeter, with security cameras and armed guards at the entrances and exits. The only people allowed in the area are employees or contractors who have passed a security vetting.
Both Blinken and President Joe Biden condemned the hateful incident, and the State Department launched an investigation.
Shortly after the incident, Biden nominated Holocaust historian Deborah E. Lipstadt as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, an appointment which has the rank of ambassador.
There is no evidence linking Berggren to the graffiti, but the letter cited the incident as potentially inspired by the lack of consequences he has faced.
“[His] continued employment with seemingly no consequences sends a message of impunity that has undoubtedly contributed to the atmosphere in which someone would dare to do such a thing,” the authors of the letter wrote to Blinken. “The Department should not wait for Berggren to target Jewish employees in the workplace, potentially with violence, before removing him. The security clearance process is meant to assess an employee’s suitability for continued employment with the Department. There is no universe in which Berggren should qualify as suitable.”
Employees have expressed frustration that Berggren had faced no professional accountability. They also posit that he has violated employment policy by signing some of his posts with his official title, which might violate rules against publishing views in a personal capacity while using their State Department affiliation.
“While we understand that you may not be able to share with us particular personnel actions that may have already been taken with regard to Berggren, we believe the only appropriate personnel action is his separation from the Department,” the letter wrote. “No one who so openly and unabashedly promotes these ideas should have a home here, and we believe the Department’s own regulations give ample opportunity to make a case that would result in Berggren’s separation.”