Election Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Race & Ethnicity

Reading Trump’s mind on anti-Semitism

Yellow badge used to identify Jews in public.

Yellow badge used to identify Jews in public.

At his Wednesday news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Trump responded to a question about anti-Semitism with an answer that didn’t manage to mention anti-Semitism. This has gotten the American Jewish community’s knickers in a  bit of a twist.

Let’s see if I can untwist them — with a peek inside the Mind of Trump as he fumbles through his answer.

The question, from an Israeli journalist, was this:

Mr. President, since your election campaign and even after your victory, we’ve seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States. And I wonder what you say to those among the Jewish community in the States, and in Israel, and maybe around the world who believe and feel that your administration is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones.

Trump begins:

Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had — 306 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.

(Election campaign? I still can’t believe I got just 24 percent of the Jewish vote, six points less than Romney in 2012, for Chrissake. The Iran deal I denounced — Hillary didn’t. Worst deal ever. Didn’t make a difference, even though Jared said it would. Not that I needed their damn votes. I didn’t. Remember that. Ok, move on big fella.)

I will say that we are going to have peace in this country. We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on, because lot of bad things have been taking place over a long period of time.

(I remember when Jews were getting mugged in New York. The Pawnbroker. Great movie, one of the best. Rod Steiger, Morgan Freeman. Unbelievable story of Holocaust survivor, Puerto Ricans, violence. And not just Jews, though to hear them talk you’d think so. Like what about the Central Park Five? Sad. But not on my watch.)

I think one of the reasons I won the election is we have a very, very divided nation. Very divided. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to do something about that. And, you know, it was something that was very important to me.

(Well, yeah, I wouldn’t have won if we’d been all kumbaya. Divided, I conquered. But now, we get rid of the illegals, keep out the Mexicans and the Muslims, no more divisions. I’m on the case, ok?)

As far as people — Jewish people — so many friends,

Some of my best friends actually. Like where would I be without Roy Cohn? And Davy Friedman, another great lawyer of mine, who’ll be the greatest ambassador to Israel ever. Not to mention what’s his name, the cyber-Jew billionaire who’s going to stick it to the so-called “intelligence community.”

a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren.

Jews every one of them. The no-working-on-Saturday real Jews, not the commie Bernie Sanders so-called Jews. Not, like Bannon says, the whiney ones.

I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot of love.

(Should I mention that new Pew poll showing Americans have warmer feelings towards Jews than any other religious group? Nah. Bunch of whiners, won’t believe it. Just: Make love, not anti-Semitism, eh Jared?)

Okay? Thank you.

(And the horse you rode in on.)

Feel better now?

Update: At his solo news conference Thursday, President Trump responded to a question on the same subject with the following clarification:

So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti- Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.

Now you know.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • Think this sums it up perfectly. Thanks.

    I would say what Trump said was “unbelievable” but it is becoming increasingly believable. You know, as in “alternative facts.” We just have to get used to the Trump “style” – meander, evade, avoid, lie, contradict today what was said yesterday. That deserves more description but I think it is enough to make the point.

  • Trump’s narcissism has such a stranglehold on (what passes for) his intellect that he can only respond to a question about anti-Semitism by declaring that he is not an anti-Semite, which is not what he was asked.

    Trump himself is probably not an ideological anti-Semite, because Trump himself seems to hold very few actual principles or beliefs. He probably thinks Jews are good lawyers and accountants and maybe they whine a little too much.

    But the issue is not so much Trump himself as the people he surrounds himself with. Because he has few strong convictions and is easily swayed by advisors, the beliefs of those advisors are particularly important. And there is an unusual level of anti-Semitic smoke coming off of these people. One of them wouldn’t let his daughters attend a school with too many Jewish students. Another was allegedly mentored at college by Richard Spencer. Another proudly wears a medal from some Hungarian pro-Nazi sect. Another, recently “resigned,” tweeted “not anymore, Jews. Not anymore” at the Democratic Party. Someone told Trump not to mention Jews when talking about the Holocaust.

    And then there are the outsiders who are attracted to this administration. Why is David Duke such a big fan? Why are outfits like the Daily Stormer so enamored? Why do his fans love to post vile anti-Semitic attacks on reporters? Why have threats against synagogues skyrocketed since his election? What is the smoldering fire within the Trump administration that is creating all of this smoke?

    Trump, not one for self-reflection, can’t even ask these questions let alone answer them. Like a child, he can only lash out: “No Nazi! No Nazi! You’re the Nazi!”

  • Excellent comment Pan. I think you were right on the button with this:

    “Trump himself is probably not an ideological anti-Semite, because Trump himself seems to hold very few actual principles or beliefs.”

  • Nothing like putting one’s own spin on someone else’s words. Is the author living inside the head of Mr. Trump? While Mr. Trump is sometimes hard to follow since many of his statements reflect the style of the Twitterverse he occupies, the interpolations in the above commentary cannot be proved to be an accurate reflection of what he meant. Or am I missing the satirical intent of the author. In either case the commentary is not to be taken seriously.

  • Excellent comment Great God Pan. The only problem is that he is encouraging antisemites to come out of the closet whether he means to or not.

    When the British Jewish Board of Deputies tried to tell Foreign Minister Bevin about the Holocaust, he said “Oh you Jews, you are always whining or wailing about something. It turned out that the British government already knew about the Holocaust. It’s good that we have finally learned to speak up for ourselves without worrying what other people with think.

  • Balderdash! The very idea that Trump is responsible for any anti-Semitism is nothing but the whining, ranting toxicity that is coming out of the pores of the Obama/Clinton/Left since he turned out to send them home in this recent presidential election. Anyone…and I mean anyone…who ever knew anything about him knows that he is the last person in this country to be labeled an anti-Semite. The very charge is so ludicrous that it prompts the charge of this is being nothing more…or less…than bearing false witness. I suppose that the charge comes out of Trump’s injudicious ranting about Mexicans. Maybe, too, his pronounced focus on Muslims are the real genesis of the broad left’s slander charging him with the oldest prejudice…anti-Semitism. The fact is the real purveyors of anti-Semitism are the very kinds of people that are making the allegation against Trump. Anyone who’s paying attention would know that anti-Semitism is raising its very ugly head in REAL terms in the universities across the land. And, if you aren’t aware of that, you aren’t paying attention. And, most often, it’s coming from the Palestinians and their allies but the Left coddles those types and have done nothing about it…nothing! Sure there are the traditional anti-Semites who, in truth, have always been there. Are they “coming out of the woodwork” because of President Trump? Hardly. They’re coming out of the woodwork because they see anti-Semitism going unpunished and lauded in Academia. Perhaps there’s also a dash of misunderstanding his remarks about Mexicans and Muslims that cause garbage like David Duke to latch on to hims to some degree. To trash like that, they learn lessons of unanswered hate very easily. As to the President’s arguably intemperate display when asked about it, one can…if they allow themselves the decency for just a moment…fathom the enormous frustration and personal pain a man who has never, ever been an anti-Semite might feel at being the brunt of such a fallacious and disgusting calumny over and over and over again. It’s really time for people to get real because their whining is tiresome…and unjust. Grow the heck up and use your brains.

  • The president wasn’t accused of anti-semitism, but instead asked why there seems to be an upsurge in it. The interviewers suggested that perhaps it was because his “administration is playing with xenophobia”. Mr. Trump made the question about himself, seeing it as a personal attack. His default to defensive speech is usually interpreted as guilt; he looks guilty.
    In your case blaming his predecessors, the Left, and universities, is attempting to divert the discussion away from the President and his administration. That suggests you find it hard to reasonably defend the him. This is only marginally better than the President’s defensiveness, and itself looks defensive, i.e., guilty.

  • Well, that distinction is really without a difference. If one would sincerely want to “understand” why there’s an “upsurge” in anti-semitism and muse about its relationship to the ascendence of a Trump Presidency, they would have been more attendant to an “upsurge” of it that in very real terms began years before Trump’s election…during Obama’s Administration. I believe a legitimate argument can be made that Obama deserves far more “credit” for any upsurge but I’ll leave that for another time. Those who feign curiosity about an “upsurge” are really doing nothing less than impugning anti-Semitism TO Mr. Trump, whom they see as the devil incarnate. Guilt by association in reverse, by making reference to that aberrant, David Duke, etc.? You suggest that I stay focused and not “blame” his predecessors and that I “find it hard to defend him,” is simply inaccurate. What I do, rather, is attack the “Leftists” who purport to give an iota of a damn about anti-Semitism and its upsurge and are using the entire issue at a sword against a man that is not an anti-Semite. Your mincing of words is a symptom of that.

  • Well, from your clear attitude that permeates even your two-liner, anti-Semitism isn’t your concern…and shouldn’t be anyones. And, your reference to “no agreed-upon definition” isn’t wholly correct, but more importantly, your attitude saying that were there no “agreed-upon definition” anything goes and be damned with the Jews. I don’t need an “agreed-upon definition” to know what you are. Wow.

  • This is a fine example of the kind of revisionist history that anti-Semites of every stripe revel in. It is so thoroughly full of sweeping groundless conclusions like Zionism is far from being a natural development of Judaism,
    most Jewish people viewed Zionism as marginal or even heretical, etc. that it is plainly a work of fiction. Those with a profound anti-Jewish sentiments are bound to love this kind of thing and it’s no surprise that you do. If you knew the first thing about Judaism and Jews…if you knew the first thing about the State of Israel…you’d know that the book is a fraud and should be ignored. But, alas, it was written for people like you and you have found it. What a surprise! It was written to be an easy security blanket for the, oh, so many know-nothings that gravitate toward phony history and ersatz historical foundations about Israel and the Jews like moths to a flame. Of course there were Protestants who hoped for a rebirth of Israel. But, they were so few and far between that it’s quite laughable to even begin to believe that they had anything more than being a mere footnote to the whole birth of the modern State of Israel-story. The Jews…the ones that are belittled, misrepresented and slighted in that book…were the ones that created with their lives and sacrifices of all kinds. The kind of garbage that this book computes to is laughable and I’d like to tell you what to do with it. Better, though, you GO to Israel and see what it is, rather than try to spread libel about it.

  • Let’s face it…you’re just an anti-semitic troll that would agree with anything someone says that doesn’t reflect well on Jews. Who was it…Robert Burns? who said long ago….Know thyself.

  • I took a look at the info on you…Do you have any idea of what you are? Why, it’s comical how just plain stupid you are and how much time you spend attempting to denigrate Israel and Jews. It’s very obvious that you’ve never even been to Israel and yet you think that quoting people that harbor peculiar ideas and philosophies and revisionist histories are the ones that are reliably accurate about the subject. If you spent more time looking at reality rather than placing you ideas on idiocy, you’d be better off as a human being. You are a very vacuous thinker, indeed. Is that a permanent condition?

  • We all heard Trumps speech on international bankers. Thats str8 from Hitler’s last breath. Trump is a Protestant and his vision for Palestine hinges on mass conversion.

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