Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump give press conference at the White House in Washington on Feb. 15, 2017.
(photo credit:AVI OHAYON - GPO)
The Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee have criticized the way President Donald Trump has responded to questions about an uptick in antisemitism in the US in two separate press conferences in the past two days.
A statement released by ADL National chairman Marvin D. Nathan and ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said: “On two separate occasions over the past two days, President Trump has refused to say what he is going to do about rising antisemitism or to even condemn it. It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction. This is not a partisan issue. It’s a potentially lethal problem – and it’s growing.
“In light of the bomb scares, online harassment, physical vandalism, death threats and other hate crimes, there is a simple question at hand that Americans of all faiths deserve an answer to – what is the Trump administration going to do about the recent surge of antisemitism? What concrete steps will the White House take to address intolerance?” the statement continued. “We are going to keep asking these questions – and urge others in the press and public to do so as well – until we get a clear answer from our president.”
On Wednesday, Trump evaded a question about the spike in antisemitic rhetoric and attacks across the country since his election win, responding by touting his victory in the Electoral College. A day later, Trump shut down a question by a haredi reporter of Ami magazine about how the administration intended to tackle the rise in antisemitic incidents, which has included dozens of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers across the US.
The reporter, Jake Turx, whom Trump interrupted and accused of lying, defended Trump’s actions as owing to a misunderstanding.
He told Fox News that he believed Trump acted defensively to his question about rising antisemitism in America because of the “unfair” treatment the president is receiving in the media and allegations connected to antisemitism.
“It’s very unfair what’s been done to him and I understand why he’s so defensive,” Turx, who wears a large kippa and has a beard, told Fox News on Thursday, hours after the incident. “And I’m with him when it comes to being outraged about him being charged with this antisemitism.”
In a Twitter post, Turx said “President Trump clearly misunderstood my question.
This is highly regretful and I’m going to seek clarification.”
After a harsh-toned exchange with several reporters – some of whom Trump interrupted, told to “sit down” or be quiet – Trump said he wanted to take a question from a friendly reporter.
Turx said, “I’m friendly,” and began by saying, “Despite what some my colleagues have been reporting, I have not seen anyone in my community accuse either yourself or anyone of your staff of being antisemitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren, you are their zayde [Yiddish word for grandfather].”
However, citing dozens of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in recent months, Turx said, “What we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in antisemitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.”
Trump interrupted Turx, said his question was “not fair” and said: “Okay, sit down, I understand the rest of your question.”
Trump replied, saying he was “the least antisemitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” Trump then turned to the reporters, said, “Quiet” three times and added: “See, he lied, he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so, you know, welcome to the world of the media.”
He then said: “I hate the charge because I find it repulsive.” Trump referenced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remark Wednesday during a joint news conference at the White House, where Netanyahu said, “There is no greater supporter of Israel or the Jewish state than President Donald Trump” to a reporter who asked about the rise in antisemitic incidents in the United States.
“I think we can put that to rest,” Netanyahu said.
During the Fox News interview, Turx said he believed Trump’s emotional reaction to the subject is a hopeful sign, because “it shows a president who is so committed against this problem of antisemitism that it bothers him on a personal level, a deep personal level.”
AJC CEO David Harris described Trump’s handling of this subject as “worrisome and puzzling.”
While acknowledging the presence of Jews in Trump’s administration and family, Harris stressed the need of the government to help combat the phenomenon of antisemitism.
“Respectfully, Mr. President, please use your bully pulpit not to bully reporters asking questions potentially affecting millions of fellow Americans, but rather, to help solve a problem that for many is real and menacing,” Harris said.
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