After the horrific anti-Semitic attack in late December when five people were stabbed while celebrating Hanukkah at the home of a rabbi in New York, Donald Trump tweeted, “The anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, New York, on the 7th night of Hanukkah last night is horrific. We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.”
Those were the right words. But tragically Trump has followed that up with the wrong actions as he’s continued to normalize anti-Semitism in our country at a time when anti-Semitic hate crimes are at alarming levels. While his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish, Trump appears to be doing this by design in order to court and maintain his supporters who respond to this kind of bigotry—just as he did in 2016.
There were two alarming examples this week. First, Trump doubled down on using an anti-Semitic slur by calling Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is Jewish, “shifty.” When Trump first used this trope in October, Peter Beinart, who is Jewish, explained in The Forward, “It’s no surprise that Trump called Schiff ‘shifty’ — which means tricky or deceitful,” adding, “When discussing Jews, Trump often plays on well-worn caricatures about cleverness, deviousness, and physical weakness.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter to denounce Trump, writing that “Trump is engaged in deliberate, atrocious, targeted antisemitism towards Chairman Schiff.” She added: “It’s wrong. It’s harmful. And his bigotry is reflective of the white supremacist base he relies on for political gain.”
There’s little doubt that Trump—who is obsessed with his media coverage—saw these reports at the time, especially given AOC’s involvement. But at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, Trump again accused “Shifty Schiff” of lying—his use of the anti-Semitic slur is now memorialized forever as part of the official transcript posted on whitehouse.gov.
Imagine if Rep. Ilhan Omar—or any other visible Democrat—continually called a GOP Jewish member of Congress “shifty.” It would be vocally, and rightly, condemned as anti-Semitic. But with Trump, there’s silence from groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition, which condemned Omar for her use of an anti-Semitic trope in a tweet last year, which she apologized for and has not used again. This partisan double standard is dangerous.
A potentially even more disturbing development this week was that Trump’s White House—per media reports—approved press credentials for the virulent anti-Semite Rick Wiles, the founder of TruNews, which the ADL describes as “a fundamentalist Christian streaming news and opinion platform,” to cover Trump in Davos. Wiles, a Christian pastor and rabid Trump supporter, made headlines last November when he called the impeachment proceedings a “Jew Coup.” In that TruNews broadcast, Wiles featured images of Schiff and other Jewish Americans involved in the impeachment proceedings while declaring that Jews are “deceivers, they plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda.” (Sounds a lot like Trump’s attacks on Schiff.)
Yet here was Wiles at Davos with press credentials from the White House covering Trump. That’s no one-off.
Trump directly called on TruNews at a press conference in 2018. In 2019, Donald Trump, Jr. was interviewed by the outlet at his father’s rally in Michigan. In fact, the White House had issued so many press credentials and invitations to TruNews that Wiles has humble-bragged about how they can’t attend them all “because we just don’t have the funding and the manpower.”
The White House has kept quiet about why Wiles and his outlet again received press credentials this week, amid a wave of condemnation. Anti-Defamation League President Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that “Last month, the virulently #antiSemitic, Islamophobic and homophobic TruNews declared impeachment a ‘Jew coup.’ Now TruNews is at the WEF in Davos on press credentials from the White House. Unacceptable is an understatement.”
And an editor at The Forward, Batya Ungar-Sargon, remarked on Twitter, “The folks behind the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that impeachment is a ‘Jew coup’ seem to have been personally credentialed by the White House. There's no plausible deniability here, just shameful normalization of anti-Semitism from @realDonaldTrump.”
She’s 100 percent correct. Trump is normalizing anti-Semitism right in front of our eyes. And he’s doing so at a time where we’ve seen a documented spike in anti-Semitic attacks, including the stabbings in New York and the targeted murder of two Jews at a kosher deli in New Jersey.
Given that hate crimes have increased in every presidential election year since the early 1990s, we can expect to see more anti-Semitic attacks, along with hate crimes directed at other groups before 2020 is done. Trump gets this. He knows the power of his words. But he doesn’t care. To Trump, whatever happens to Jews, Muslims, blacks, Latinos or other groups he demeans and worse is an acceptable price to pay for a victory in November.