Addressing a crowd of American Jews Saturday, Donald Trump repeated one of his favorite attack lines against former President Barack Obama, saying he had ruined America’s economy and decimated the military. “How the hell did you support President Obama?” he asked the audience. “How did you do it?”
The only problem was, they didn’t. Trump was addressing the annual conference Republican Jewish Coalition, a powerful lobbying group backed by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The audience members quickly reminded the president they had not supported his Democratic predecessor.
Trump’s speech was meant to drum up support from American Jews—a voting bloc that has traditionally voted Democratic. The president has attempted to shift this allegiance in recent years, granting the Israel government political favors like sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights region. He has also thrown his support behind Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is up for re-election next week.
On Saturday, Trump occasionally appeared to confuse the American Jewish audience with Israelis, calling Netanyahu “your prime minister” and saying Democrats “very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.”
“I know that the Republican Jewish Coalition will help lead our party to another historic victory,” Trump said. “We need more Republicans. Let's go, so we can win everything.”
Trump returned several times to the idea of Democrats betraying Jewish voters. Earlier in the speech, he mocked Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has previously expressed disdain for the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. The president offered a sarcastic “special thanks” to Rep. Omar before adding, “Oh, I forgot, she doesn't like Israel. I’m so sorry.”
The remark came less than a day after a New York man was arrested for threatening to kill the congresswoman. According to a criminal complaint, the man told the FBI he “loves the president” and “hates radical Muslims in our government.” A representative for Rep. Omar did not respond to a request for comment.
Saturday’s gathering was protested by the progressive Jewish organization IfNotNow, which opposes the Israeli occupation. Ten protesters stood up in the back of the room and chanted “Jews are here to say, ‘Occupation is a plague.’” Their intention was to encourage the Jewish community to reject Trump, Netanyahu, and the RJC, according to a press release.
The group’s cries were drowned out by RJC members chanting “USA” and “Four more years.” As one of the protesters was removed from the room, Trump remarked, “He's going back home to mommy and he will be reprimanded.”