Skip To Content
Back to Opinion
We’ve Taken Down the Forward Paywall: An Open Letter to Our ReadersRead Now

Why We Should Applaud The Politician Who Said Jews Control The Weather

This past Sunday morning, D.C. Councilman Trayon White released a video complaining about the weather. It was a completely normal post which would have gone unnoticed but for a little comment he made at the end:

“Y’all better pay attention to this climate control,” White said. “It’s climate manipulation and D.C. keep talking about ‘We are a resilient city,’ and that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

The response was quick and brutal. The Rosthschilds, a Jewish banking family from Europe, have been invoked as Jewish boogeymen for years, the embodiment of conspiracy theories about Jews controlling world events.

So when White invoked the Rothschilds as “controlling the climate… to own the cities” it set off alarm bells and a lot of headlines. “D.C. Councilman: Jews Control The Weather!” read headline after headline (and quite a few jokes, too).

While that wasn’t quite what he said, for White to use the Rothschilds as the Jewish masterminds in a rant about bigger interests controlling smaller interests was deeply concerning.

Ironically, the timing of the episode could not have been worse. It came on the heels of a controversy over prominent black activists like Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour of the Women’s March having ties to the well known anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, and then refusing to repudiate him after a speech rife with anti-Semitism.

But the White controversy is actually very different to the Mallory/Farrakhan one.

For starters, White never mentioned “Jews” directly, only the Rothschilds. This didn’t stop some publications from using quotes in their headlines around “Jews Control the Weather.” But it makes a difference. White mistakenly believed that one family of Jews controlled the weather. And while the Rothschilds are frequently used as a stand-in for Jews more generally, it’s entirely possible to believe the Rothschilds are evil manipulative masterminds while also not believing this or all or even most Jews. In fact, many use it independently of its Jewish connection, referencing “Rothschild” as a stand in for “capitalist” rather than “Jew.”

This is in fact exactly how White meant it, which became apparent when, unlike Mallory and Sarsour, White apologized — immediately.

To his credit, not only did he instantly apologize, but he truly seemed unaware of the anti-Semitic canard behind his words. A contrite White even appeared with Rabbi Batya Glazer of The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington to discuss the issue.

His proactive efforts to mend any wounds caused by his words stood in stark contrast to the actions of some of the Women’s March leaders who grew defensive when asked to call out an anti-Semitic ally.

Even worse, in an interview in The Atlantic with Mallory, Adam Serwer discussed offensive anti-Semitic remarks she had once made to a co-worker. “Well you help us with the money because I know that you guys know how to handle money,” Mallory had told her Jewish co-worker.

Like White, Mallory had been totally unaware that what she was saying was anti-Semitic. And yet, how different was her response when her co-worker pointed it out. Mallory asked her co-worker to refrain from labeling her speech as anti-Semitic. “I know that it’s ignorant to say that, because it’s a negative stereotype and you reinforce that but again when you say anti-Semitic it’s very dangerous for a person like me. It sounds really bad,” Mallory said.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a good response.

Contrast that with White’s apology which, to me at least, seemed sincere, doubly so since it confirmed that he was not aware of how the “Rothschild” name is used as a dog whistle.

As for the idea that anybody can control the weather, it’s actually less crazy than it seems. It is after all possible to “seed” clouds with chemicals for the purposes of triggering precipitation, a method weaponized by the U.S. in South East Asia. “Operation Popeye” generated rain that would hinder enemy supply trains, a practice now banned by international law.

As for White’s climate manipulation, the fact that climate change is caused by human action is indisputable science. And this change-inducing activity, be it intentional or the result of neglect and carelessness, is driven primarily by economic interests. While White may have taken this a step further when he suggested that the Rothschilds “control” the climate, we certainly have an element of control when it comes to how we respond to climate change.

White also had legitimate reason for concern about his economically depressed constituents. Environmental racism is a real thing. And while White’s understanding of how this works could use some study, he’s not entirely wrong. Minorities and impoverished people are isolated from natural resources, while also being subject to pollution and the effects of climate change.

Perfect examples would be the poisoned drinking water in Flint Michigan, and the lax infrastructure development in pre-Katrina New Orleans that led to deadly flooding once the storm hit. As climate change increases the severity and frequency of extreme weather patterns, the people most susceptible to the effects are poor minorities.

The current state of Puerto Rico is another perfect example. The island was nearly leveled by Hurricane Maria this summer. This has triggered accelerated migrations from the island to mainland U.S., and also made the island more vulnerable to predatory economic interests. Land and homes can be snatched up by banks for artificially low prices.

This exploitation of Puerto Rico did not start with Hurricane Maria, nor is there any reason to believe that the hurricane was a deliberate act. But there are indisputably parties with vested interest in natural disasters.

In short, what White was talking about isn’t completely insane (though again, he could use some more information).

Most importantly, we Jews should commend him for his immediate and sincere apology. We need allies like this. It’s not about what you don’t know going into something. It’s how you react when you are educated.

White’s reaction is a lesson to us all.

Ben Faulding is a writer and social activist from Brooklyn.


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.