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A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Orthodox Jewish founder of Libs of TikTok endorses an antisemitic conspiracy theory in viral interview

“COVID radicalized me,” Chaya Raichik, the founder of right-wing social media channel Libs of TikTok, told Washington Post technology columnist Taylor Lorenz in an interview posted to YouTube on Saturday.

Libs of TikTok, Raichik’s account, has amassed its followers largely through posting videos that target “libs” — mostly trans and LGBTQ people, as well as people declaring support for those communities.

Often, after Libs of TikTok posts a video of someone, an online mob harrasses and threatens the person in question; Raichik’s current profile picture on X, formerly known as Twitter, shows her smiling while holding up a copy of USA Today with the front page headline “When Libs of TikTok posts, threats increasingly follow.” Most recently, some, including Oklahoma City Councilor Sean Cumming, are blaming Raichik’s rhetoric for the death of a non-binary teenager, Nex Benedict, who died the day after being bullied and beaten in their Oklahoma school’s bathroom.

But Raichik’s viral following has given her political power — she was invited to dine with Donald Trump and has now been appointed to the Oklahoma Library Media Advisory Committee, where she is advocating for books to be removed from school libraries. (Raichik lives in Los Angeles and said she has visited the state only once.)

Lorenz and Raichik have long been foes. Lorenz’s cutting-edge reporting on online culture has made her into an influencer in her own right, and it was her reporting that first exposed Raichik, an Orthodox Jewish woman, as the then-anonymous user behind the Libs of TikTok account.

Raichik agreed to sit down with Lorenz, who had asked for a 5-minute comment, in the hopes of roasting the reporter. (The influencer wore a T-shirt with an unflattering shot of Lorenz’s face on it to the interview.) Lorenz told Poynter that she had initially thought she was only meeting Raichik for a comment for a story, but the resulting interview runs nearly an hour; Raichik’s social media assistant filmed the conversation and provided the footage to Lorenz.

In the recorded interview, as Lorenz calmly asks questions about Raichik’s followers and her politics, Raichik replies with unrelated questions, largely about transgender people, porn and immigration.

Noting the white nationalism in replies to Raichik’s posts, Lorenz asked how, “as a Jewish woman,” Raichik manages the “nuances, when you think about the audience that you’re building.” Raichik replied: “Some of your audience thinks we should chop off kids’ body parts. What do you think about that?” (Raichik seemed to be referring to gender-affirming surgery.)

Asked about her views on the Great Replacement Theory, considered by many to be an antisemitic conspiracy, Raichik said that she “just look[s] at the facts and numbers,” and does believe there is a plot to replace Americans. When Lorenz noted the antisemitic undertones of the theory and asked how Raichik would reply to people who believe Jews are among the minorities trying to replace white people. Raichik replied: “not all cultures are equal.”

When Lorenz posted the interview footage, it instantly went viral. Many journalists congratulated the reporter for asking remaining calm during her questions, and criticizing Raichik for not answering directly.

“The thing that makes the Chaya Raichik interview so horrifically compelling is that she has ruined people’s lives for reasons she literally cannot articulate,” tweeted Media Matters journalist Ari Drennan.

Similarly, podcaster and writer Jordan Uhle tweeted that, “If you’re going to show up to an interview wearing a shirt with the reporter’s face on it to try & troll them, you should at least be prepared to answer relatively straightforward questions about a set of ideas you’ve built your entire online persona around.”

Raichik’s supporters, however, also saw the interview as a win, gloating over the fact that Raichik wore a shirt with Lorenz’s face on it, calling it a “boss move” and making fun of Lorenz for wearing a mask.

Raichik, however, accused Lorenz of purposefully posting the interview on Shabbat when she would be offline for 24 hours and unable to defend herself, calling it “the scummiest move possible.” Soon, though, she found her rhythm again, posting a comeback saying the interview showed that Lorenz is a “lizard person.”

This story was originally published in the Forward. Click here to get the Forward’s free email newsletters delivered to your inbox.

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