FIRST ON FOX – The chairman of one of the most powerful financial committees in Congress is questioning whether several high-profile universities should have their tax-exempt status revoked in the wake of anti-Israel statements from several student groups.
Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the controversial statements – and in some cases administrators’ failure to condemn them – were “unforgivable” and counter to U.S. values.
“To say I am disgusted by statements of support for Hamas that we’ve seen in recent days is an understatement,” Smith said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital. “Celebrating, excusing, or downplaying the horrific rape, torture, and murder of innocent people is the same thing as supporting violence, or even calling for it.
“Some organizations that have celebrated the unspeakable acts of terror that claimed the lives of 30 Americans and hundreds of Israeli men, women, and children currently enjoy tax-exempt status in the United States, and their statements call into question the academic or charitable missions they claim to pursue,” Smith continued.
“University administrators, for example, have weaponized their institutions to attack speech and free inquiry as ‘violence,’ yet fail to condemn actual violence that threatens our way of life all while their institutions enjoy lucrative federal tax-exempt status,” he said.
Smith added that “Congress and the American people will not forget on what side these institutions stood the day the largest number of Jewish people were killed since the Holocaust, and they must be held to account for their implicit, vile support of Hamas terrorists and violence against the people of Israel.”
Higher education institutions like Harvard University, University of Virginia and Northwestern University have all come under fire in recent days. Student group Students for Justice in Palestine released a statement claiming Israel is not the “aggrieved party.”
Other statements said that Israel could not “by any logical construct, claim victimhood” despite the brutality reported in the terrorist attacks against Israelis, while other statements seemingly supported Hamas, like the “right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means they deem necessary.”
Smith’s statement is a possible signal that the committee, which has sole jurisdiction over the tax code, could be looking at a potential investigation or hold hearings to determine the future tax-exempt status of the schools.
The House Ways and Means Committee is the oldest committee of the United States Congress and is the chief tax-writing committee in the House of Representatives.
In the current Congress, the committee has played a leading role in Capitol Hill’s investigation into Hunter Biden, releasing hundreds of pages of IRS whistleblower testimony related to the federal probe of the president’s son.