Nearly a dozen Jewish community centers reported phoned-in bomb threats on Monday, following a disturbing uptick in anti-Semitic scares and harassment in recent months. Yet President Trump — known for immediately tweeting his outrage over international Islamic attacks and threats on U.S. soil before all the facts are known— stayed silent until Tuesday morning.
The bomb threats over the past few weeks turned out to be hoaxes, but they were likely motivated by anti-Semitism, according to a press release by the JCC Association of North America. In a separate incident on Monday, almost 200 tombstones were desecrated in St. Louis, including sites holding the remains of Holocaust survivors.
“Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in response to a request by NBC News reporter Peter Alexander on Monday. “The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”
But the president had not said such actions “are unacceptable” as of Monday night. In fact, it took until Tuesday morning for the president to respond to the wave of anti-Semitic threats at all. During remarks from the National Museum of African American History, Trump said, “Anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop.” Trump also said he would never pass up an opportunity to denounce anti-Semitism.
“Wherever I get a chance, I do it,” Trump said.
Trump: anti-Semitic threats targeting Jews are “a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate & prejudice & evil” pic.twitter.com/amGUFjnxw3
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 21, 2017
“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” the president continued. “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.”
Trump later told reporters that he would visit the Holocaust Museum because it was “very important to me,” according to a White House pool report from the National Museum of African American History.
But the president has largely failed to condemn the recent surge of anti-Semitic threats in the United States, a point that prominent Jews have noticed.
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) February 16, 2017
In a memorable exchange with Jewish reporter Jake Turx during a press conference last week, Trump interrupted Turx’s question about the wave of anti-Semitic threats, saying it was “not a fair question” and demanding that the reporter “sit down.” Trump went on to defend himself as “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
There have been a record number of hate incidents since Trump was elected president, including 70 instances of anti-Semitic hatred according to our post-election tracking of hate incidents.
The administration has been largely silent when it comes to attacks on Jews (and Muslims) thus far. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House released a presidential proclamation that omitted the words “Jewish” and “Jews.” Prominent anti-Semites like Richard Spencer and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke endorsed Trump’s candidacy and presidency, as ThinkProgress previously reported. And his supporters have long harassed and sent death threats to Jewish reporters.
The president and other administration officials have been quick to condemn horrific incidents that do not exist, however. Trump recently suggested that something horrific had taken place in Sweden, allowing him to justify plans to restrict travel to the United States.
UPDATE: On Tuesday, Steve Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, issued a harsh critique of Trump’s denouncement, saying that the president’s “sudden acknowledgement of Anti-Semitism is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration.”
“His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record,” Goldstein said. “Make no mistake: The Anti-Semitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. […] When President Trump responds to Anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”