During a week when President Trump’s efforts to ban immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations touched off alarms among scientists worldwide, his former rival was sending a very different message.
Hillary Clinton spent Wednesday evening at a star-studded fundraiser supporting the cancer research of two top scientists at Columbia University — both of whom happen to be immigrants.
One of the event’s beneficiaries was Dr. Azra Raza, who last summer wrote an opinion piece for STAT under the headline: “I’m an immigrant and a Muslim. And I’m here to cure cancer.” Raza, who researches early-stage leukemia, grew up in Pakistan. She said Clinton repeatedly thanked her for her work.
The fundraiser also raised money to support the work of Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” Mukherjee, who studies blood cancers, was born in India.
Clinton’s appearance came during the same week Trump finalized his plans to block entry into the US for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — including refugees, other would-be immigrants, and longtime US residents who have valid green cards and were trying to return to their homes after trips abroad. A federal judge late Saturday stepped in to stop the government from deporting some of those trapped in airports by the executive order, but the 90-day ban on citizens of those seven countries still stands.
Thousands of leading scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, have condemned the executive order, which is already disrupting academic research plans and companies’ work by blocking some researchers from coming to or returning to the US.
On Saturday evening, Hillary Clinton tweeted a message of support to those protesting Trump’s immigration ban.
I stand with the people gathered across the country tonight defending our values & our Constitution. This is not who we are.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 29, 2017
Clinton’s attendance at the Manhattan fundraiser alongside her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is documented in photos and was confirmed to STAT by Raza.
The fundraiser was a jazz concert, called “The Nearness of You,” in honor of the late jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker, who had put out an album under that name before his death. The invitation to the event highlighted performances by the A-list musicians Diana Krall, Chaka Khan, and Wynton Marsalis.
Held in a concert hall with sweeping views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, the event raised money for cancer research at Columbia University Medical Center and specifically for the work of Raza and Mukherjee.
The concert was followed by a “VIP benefactor after-party,” according to the invitation, hosted by the actors Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness, a married couple. Raza said the Clintons stayed only for the concert itself.
It wasn’t immediately clear how much money the Clintons contributed. Spokespeople for Bill Clinton and the couple’s foundation did not return requests for comment placed late Friday. A spokesperson for Columbia University was not able to get information late Friday on how much the event raised.
Raza told STAT that the Clintons arrived about an hour before the 7:30 p.m. concert opening to spend time backstage with the gathered luminaries. During the concert itself, Raza said she sat right beside Hillary Clinton in the concert hall. “I’m still with her,” Raza told STAT.