Donald Trump has an anti-Semitism problem.
Granted, the newly minted Republican nominee for president has long insisted that his is not himself anti-Semitic, and regularly points out that his daughter is a Jewish convert. Yet Trump has done little to quell a rising tide of anti-Semitism among his supporters since launching his campaign last year: Trump initially refused to disavow anti-Semitic Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump surrogate implied at a rally that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders should convert from Judaism and “meet Jesus,” prominent anti-Semites went on radio shows to encourage their supporters to “get out and vote” for Trump, and a man was filmed leaving a Trump rally shouting in Cleveland shouting “Go to fucking Auschwitz.”
To make matters worse, anti-Semitic white supremacists recently announced that they view Trump’s relative silence on the issue “as an endorsement.”
This surge of anti-Semitism has been unsettling to many, but is hitting one group especially hard: Jewish political reporters who cover Trump, many of whom who say they are regularly subject to anti-Semitic harassment by his supporters online.
When Jewish journalist Julia Ioffe published a lengthy profile of Donald Trump’s wife Melania in April, for instance, her computer was reportedly flooded with an avalanche of angry, anti-Semitic tweets in response. Ioffe began retweeting the attacks to highlight their unsettling intensity, such as photoshopping a Jewish star used by the Nazi regime onto her clothing or digitally inserting her face into an image of a person detained the Auschwitz concentration camp. She also received death threats by phone and email, prompting Ioffe to solicit the help of the Anti-Defamation League and file a police report alleging that the hateful messages included a “threat to kidnap or injure a person.”
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) April 28, 2016
From my inbox. Subject line: "They know about you!" pic.twitter.com/zp3v2GjTeI
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) April 28, 2016
When DuJour magazine asked Melania Trump about the incident weeks later, she condemned the tweets but turned the blame back on Ioffe, implying the attacks were her fault because she “provoked” the hateful commenters.
“I don’t control my fans,” she said, “but I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”
Donald Trump was also asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to comment about the situation but demurred, saying he didn’t know much about it before adding, “You’ll have to talk to them about it.”
Ioffe declined to be interviewed for this story, telling ThinkProgress via email that she thinks her work and the Trumps’ response “speak for themselves.”
A similar fate befell New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman earlier this month, who reportedly received a rash of anti-Semitic tweets simply for posting an opinion piece critical of Trump entitled “This is how fascism comes to America.” Weisman was promptly “outed” as Jewish by Twitter user “CyberTrump,” and others soon began tweeting anti-Jewish slurs and threatening retribution.
The online hate doesn’t appear beholden to any political ideology, targeting seemingly any prominent writer that blasts Trump — both liberal and conservative. In late April, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro recounted the anti-Semitic backlash he received for criticizing Trump, saying, “I have never received the amount of anti-Semitic hate I currently do each day for the crime of criticizing The Great Trump.” Two weeks later, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic received an email from someone saying that he will be “sent to a camp” if Trump wins the presidency.
As the number of incidents grew, so too did calls for the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) — which includes Trump backer Sheldon Adelson — to speak out. They finally released a statement on Tuesday condemning any and all attacks on Jewish reporters, but declined to hold Trump supporters uniquely accountable.
“We abhor any abuse of journalists, commentators and writers whether it be from Sanders, Clinton or Trump supporters,” the statement read. “There is no room for any of this in any campaign. Journalists, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity should be free to do their jobs without suffering abuses, anti-Semitic or otherwise.”
As the Washington Post pointed out, the statement’s attempt to lump Sanders and Clinton supporters in with the wave of anti-Semitism rang hollow to many Jewish reporters, who argue the vitriol is emanating primarily from Trump fans. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies and tracks hate groups, acknowledged that anti-Semitism is especially common among Trump’s digital devotees.
NYTimes reporter @jonathanweisman is retweeting antisemitic tweets from Trump supporters and trolls. It’s ugly. We’ve seen it for a while.
— SPLC (@splcenter) May 19, 2016
ThinkProgress’ own reporting staff has also been impacted by the phenomenon. Kira Lerner and Alice Ollstein — both political reporters and both Jewish — say they have encountered anti-Semitic remarks online while covering Trump.
“I immediately blocked them,” Ollstein said. She pointed out that the attacks were unique to this election season, noting, “I’ve been reporting in Washington, DC for six years, and this is the only time it’s ever happened to me — either in person or online.”
The same is true for Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress’ economics editor. Covert says she received a deluge of anti-Semitic tweets in May after she published an op-ed in the New York Times decrying Trump’s policy agenda as disproportionately benefiting white men. The tweets personally attacked her for being Jewish and referenced her family — even though she never mentioned her Jewish heritage (she’s half-Jewish) in the story.
“The Trump supporters had to really dig deep to figure out that I’m Jewish,” Covert said. “They unearthed this tweet of mine from months ago referencing my Jewish grandma.”
“I haven’t gotten any anti-semitism in my mentions for writing about any other candidate,” she added.
Indeed, this ThinkProgress reporter — who is Presbyterian — also received anti-Semitic tweets simply for putting out a call for help with this story. One commenter appeared to deny the Holocaust and mock the Hebrew language, and another awarded the author with a “gold star” — meaning the yellow Star of David used by the Nazis to identify Jews.
The connection between Trump and internet-based anti-Semitism has gotten so bad that The Donald’s name and image are now brandished as an excuse to unleash insults whether or not he is being discussed. In mid-May, a Twitter account sporting an image of Trump attacked a Jewish reporter at the Charleston Post and Courier for commenting on shifting opinions regarding the Confederate flag, tweeting, “I guess daddy didn’t love her enough to get her a nosejob for her Bar Mitzvah.” The account’s bio notes that liberals should be sent “straight to the ovens.”
The growing culture of hate shows few signs of slowing down, and reporters are increasingly concerned the vitriol won’t stop so long as Trump refuses to condemn the attacks — and stop attacking reporters himself.
“I’m not surprised that Trump supporters feel comfortable assaulting journalists on Twitter,” Lerner said. “Trump is leading by example.”