WASHINGTON — The White House issued a statement today “strongly” pushing the candidacy of its pick to lead the top migration office at the United Nations, a candidate who once suggested building a wall in the Alps to keep out refugees.
Ken Isaacs is vice president of programs and government relations at Samaritan’s Purse, the aid organization led by Franklin Graham. He previously served as director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The next leader of the Geneva-based International Office of Migration will be chosen by secret ballot June 29 among the 169 member countries. The U.S. contributes about half of the agency’s annual $1 billion budget, and the American candidate usually wins the leadership election. But tweets from Isaacs that have been highlighted since his Feb. 1 nomination have stoked international opposition, leaving a shoo-in election in doubt.
Isaacs tweets have included declaring “#Islam is not peaceful” and tweeting about the 2017 London Bridge attack, “If you read the Quran, you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.” He’s also said refugees were an asset because “refugees with other worldviews won’t be the same as other immigrants,” and said religious preferences should be shown in refugee treatment: “Refugees are 2 grps. Some may go back and some can’t return. Christians can never return. They must be 1st priority,” he tweeted.
Last year during Ramadan he tweeted that “Muslims fast, they also blast.” He also compared Islam to the Jim Jones cult.
Isaacs said after a February Washington Post report that he “deeply” regretted his comments. “I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM,” he said.
At a March briefing, Isaacs told reporters, “I have never shown discrimination against anybody or anything, period, other than if they need help. If they need help I always help them.”
He said he had “retweeted many things to stimulate conversation,” including conspiracy theories about the death of DNC staff Seth Rich.
Issacs, who was being introduced to other ambassadors in New York by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley today, told Foreign Policy magazine in a statement last week, “I have apologized publicly for social media comments that have caused hurt. I ask people to judge me on my professional record and the decades of work I have done to help people in need around the world.”
The White House said today that “the United States is the world leader in humanitarian assistance, and we will continue to lead,” and with Isaacs in charge “we know that the IOM will use donor funding in the wisest and most efficient manner, allowing it to carry out its critical mission for as long as at-risk populations are on the move.”
“Mr. Isaacs’ 34 years of service with humanitarian and development operations around the world demonstrates his commitment to helping displaced and vulnerable people,” the White House statement continued. “He has a long history of assisting those who are suffering. If elected to lead the IOM, he will treat people fairly and equally and with the dignity and respect they deserve.”