After days of mounting criticism, President Trump yesterday forcefully denounced the rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Last week, not so much denouncing anti-Semitism, plenty of denouncing the press. History shows a connection between the two.
Following a tour of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, President Trump declared that the institution was “a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
At last week’s press conference, the president took it personally when a reporter asked him about bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers. “So here’s the story, folks,” he said. “Number One, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number Two, the least racist.”
When Jake Tur, the yarmulke-clad reporter from the Hasidic weekly Ami Magazine, began to protest that he had not, in fact, said the president was anti-Semitic, Mr. Trump silenced him. “Quiet, quiet, quiet,” he said, then he claimed the reporter “lied” about the question (he didn’t) and then added, “welcome to the world of the media.”
On Friday, the president escalated his attacks on the media, tweeting that the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN were “the enemy of the American people.”
Mr. Trump famously does not read books. But to anyone who does, the phrase “enemy of the people” is chilling. Hitler used it in his war against the Jews. Coming from Stalin or Mao, it was a death sentence. In a provocative essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books, “Explaining Hitler” author Ron Rosenbaum explored Hitler’s forgotten campaign to destroy the Munich Post newspaper and parallels with the Trump era. “The Munich Post never stopped investigating who Hitler was and what he wanted,” Mr. Rosenbaum writes, “and Hitler never stopped hating them for it.” Now, let’s be clear: Donald Trump is not Hitler and the U.S. in 2017 is not Germany in 1933. But there are things to be learned from reading books. Such as, attacks on liberty often begin with attacks on journalists and Jews.
In October, the Anti-Defamation League released a report documenting “a troubling, year-long rise in anti-Semitic hate targeting journalists on Twitter” during the 2016 presidential campaign. “These aggressors,” the ADL noted, “are disproportionately likely to self-identify as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the ‘alt-right,’ a loosely connected group of extremists, some of whom are white supremacists.” The Trump campaign did not support any of this ugliness, but it did nothing to stop it.
Yesterday one of the stars of the alt-right came crashing down. Milo Yiannopoulos was disinvited from a starring role at the Conservative Political Action Conference, stripped of a lucrative book deal and resigned under pressure from Breitbart News after a videotape emerged of him praising pedophilia. Mr. Yiannopoulos is a professional provocateur with a long history of deeply offensive taunts, including anti-Semitic jibes.
Mr. Trump himself has had brushes with anti-Semitism mainly a reluctance to distance himself from racist followers and anti-Semitic commentary, as well as some really bad Jewish jokes. But he also has many defenders who forcefully reject the anti-Semitism charge. Among them are his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, Mr. Tur from Ami Magazine, and the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who called him “a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people.”
I don’t think Donald Trump is an anti-Semite. But he does have a weird relationship with anti-Semitism. He appears to sincerely believe he is “the least anti-Semitic person” ever, but he invokes the Nazi charge “enemy of the people” and the isolationist and anti-Semitic slogan from another era, “America First.” He wants an administration that is all about “love,” but brings into his White House top aides associated with the racists and xenophobes of the alt-right. He is an avid consumer of conspiracy theories spreading paranoia and hatred. Whatever drives Donald Trump an idea of “strength,” perhaps, or a dystopian view of America shaped by decades inside his surreal celebrity billionaire bubble, or his strange sense of grievance it is not Jew-hatred.
But the haters are out there and it’s not just the Jews, of course. Also out there: a fear among many about what President Trump may do. The haters are nothing new. The level of fear, that is new.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: email@example.com
Investigative Bulletin is published weekly by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.