University of Wisconsin-Madison officials said Tuesday afternoon that viral online claims of an Israeli flag being trampled alongside violent antisemitic language at a protest outside a Jewish student center last week were “significantly exaggerated.”
The claims went viral after Dana Loesch, a conservative political commentator and radio host, published them to Twitter on Monday evening.
Loesch shared an alleged screenshot of a text conversation describing violent remarks toward Jewish people and the stomping and cutting of an Israeli flag occurring during a protest Loesch said occurred outside UW Hillel Foundation, a Jewish center near campus.
The screenshot went on to claim the individual and a friend were “escorted” into the building by police as sirens went off and protestors screamed “f— Jews” through a megaphone.
Yet, in public comments and in a UWPD statement to The Daily Cardinal, officials said those claims were exaggerated and that some aspects were outright false.
Marc Lovicott, UWPD executive director of communications, told the Cardinal via an email Tuesday that UWPD has assisted MPD and Hillel over “the past few weeks” and did not see such events.
“Nothing that’s being described in these online claims has been observed by our officers,” Lovicott said. “We don't believe there's truth to the allegations.”
Lovicott added that Hillel is within the Madison Police Department’s (MPD) jurisdiction and said MPD may have more information. A representative for MPD was not immediately available for comment.
UW-Madison cast further doubt on the assertions in a statement Tuesday.
“Contrary to social media posts, no violence occurred, nor were any direct threats expressed, and a flag was not cut,” the university said in a Tuesday afternoon statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the request of some concerned students, UWPD did escort several students into Hillel during last week’s protest.”
The university cited “numerous eyewitness accounts from [UW-Madison] and Hillel staff members and members of UWPD” in its statement.
UW Hillel made similar statements in a Twitter post Tuesday.
“Eyewitnesses confirm that at no time was a flag tramped or defaced and there was no inappropriate chanting,” the post read.
UW-Madison and UW Hillel officials urged the public to use a “critical eye” when engaging with social media content.
“We echo the UW-Madison and ask people to be wary of social media posts and seek veracity over imperfect expressions,” Hillel’s Twitter post read.
Liam Beran is the Campus News Editor for The Daily Cardinal and a third-year English major. Throughout his time at the Cardinal, he's written articles for campus, state and in-depth news. Follow him on Twitter at @liampberan.