Pro-Israel Fetterman Sheds Staffers to More Reliably Progressive Politicians and Causes

The departures appear to be a response to the Democratic senator’s strong support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas.

AP/Gene J. Puskar
Senator-elect Fetterman, described by the Times of London as the ‘tattooed everyman who overcame a stroke to take Pennsylvania.’ AP/Gene J. Puskar

Top staffers for Senator Fetterman, whose open support for Israel has drawn the ire of his fellow Democrats, are quitting to work for more left-wing candidates and causes, a sign of the growing backlash against liberal politicians who support the Jewish state. 

Mr. Fetterman’s long-time communications director, Joe Calvello, left in March to work for the mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson, whom he called in a statement “a true progressive.” Mr. Fetterman’s deputy communications director, Nick Gavio, also left last month, to work for the Working Families Party, which includes members of the left-wing “Squad” in the House. A press and digital aide for the senator, Emma Mustion, is leaving to work on Senator Casey’s re-election campaign. 

The departures appear to be a response to the Democratic senator’s strong support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas. President Biden also has been hemorrhaging staff over his support for Israel, most recently at the Department of State, with the departure last week of Annelle Sheline, who cited his “horrific policy” as a prime impetus for her decision.

Ms. Sheline accused the Biden administration of “directly enabling” a military campaign the International Court of Justice has said could be considered genocide. She sees “contradiction” in the Biden administration’s policy that American arm transfers must involve “the protection of civilians from harm.”

Mr. Fetterman entered office last year with endorsements from prominent liberals like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Sanders. On the campaign trail in 2022, the tattooed, hoodie-wearing candidate toed the liberal Democratic line with calls for health care reform and an increase in the minimum wage. Now, his brash political style is drawing applause from the right. 

Mr. Fetterman has become “more based,” meaning bold or truth-telling, “than half of the senate GOP,” Donald Trump Jr. ventured on X. A journalist who has been critical of Israel, Mehdi Hasan, said on X: “A lot of folks don’t recognize John Fetterman these days.”

Since October 7, the junior senator of Pennsylvania has repeatedly denounced calls for a cease-fire at Gaza. He called out the hypocrisy of South Africa when its prosecutors accused Israel of committing genocide at Gaza and said they should “sit this one out.” He waved an Israeli flag in front of anti-Israel protesters who were being arrested at the U.S. Capitol in November, and the protestors called him “a horrible human being.” Of the anti-Israel and pro-Palestine demonstrations that have erupted at Harvard, his alma mater, Mr. Fetterman told Semafor in January: “I don’t recognize it.”

“I’m not a progressive,” Mr. Fetterman told NBC News in December. “I just think I’m a Democrat that is very committed to choice and other things. But with Israel, I’m going to be on the right side of that.” Mr. Fetterman’s office did not immediately reply to the Sun’s request for comment. 

In the White House, being on “the right side” also risks drawing resignation letters from staffers over the war at Gaza. Ms. Sheline’s resignation last week is the most significant public departure from the department since October, when a senior official in the state department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Josh Paul, also quit over the White House’s response to Hamas’s invasion of Israel. 

“Whatever credibility the United States had as an advocate for human rights has almost entirely vanished since the war began,” Ms. Sheline, who served in the department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, wrote in an opinion piece in CNN.


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