Illinois comptroller’s office employee fired over antisemitic comments in online exchange

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An employee of the Illinois comptroller’s office was fired Thursday after the office learned she had made antisemitic comments during an exchange on social media.

The comments by the employee, who the comptroller’s office did not name, were part of an Instagram exchange of insults with another user, who then publicly posted the exchange on their account.

In some of the posts during the exchange, the employee called the other Instagram user a “ZIONIST PIG” and said “all Zionists will pay.” The employee also wrote that “Hitler should have eradicated all of you.”

Abdon Pallasch, a spokesman for Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, said in a statement that the Instagram exchange appears to have been posted midday Thursday and was also posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Pallasch said the office learned about the exchange around 12:30 p.m. and when the employee was reached about 2 p.m., she admitted to some of the posts.

“Comptroller Mendoza has zero tolerance for antisemitism or hate speech,” Pallasch said, while citing a separate statement from Mendoza in which she expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself in its war against Hamas. “The employee was immediately fired.”

Postings on social media identify the employee as Sarah Chowdhury, who worked as a legal counsel for the comptroller’s office.

Reached by telephone, Chowdhury told the Tribune she was “extremely” sorry for the “inappropriate and reprehensible” comments, apologizing to the person with whom she had the heated exchange and anyone who read her comments.

She said she was distraught over the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas and grew frustrated by the way the conflict was being covered by the media and discussed through social media platforms.

“I don’t know what came over me. I was in a state of panic,” Chowdhury said. “Antisemitism has no place anywhere.”

She said she resigned as head of the South Asian Bar Association of Chicago. Without naming Chowdhury, the association in a statement said that upon learning of the statements she made on social media, “her role as president and membership in SABA-Chicago were terminated”

“We are deeply saddened and horrified by her words and their impact on our friends, families, and colleagues, and apologize for any harm they may have caused,” the organization said, adding that it had named a new president.

The Anti-Defamation League just weeks ago announced it has documented a spike in antisemitic incidents that include harassment, vandalism and assault in Illinois in recent years. The number of such incidents in 2022 increased by 128% from the year before, rising from 53 to 121, according to a report released by the ADL earlier this month.