During his joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, President Trump was asked how he would respond to those concerned that his administration promotes racism.
“Mr. President, since your election campaign and after your victory, we’ve seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States,” a journalist asked. “And I wonder what you say to those among the Jewish community in Israel, around the world, who believe that your administration is playing with xenophobia and racist tones?”
Trump responded by talking about one of his favorite subjects — his electoral college victory over Hillary Clinton.
“Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had,” Trump began. “Three hundred and six electoral college votes — we were not supposed to crack 220 — you know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.”
Trump then promised that to bring peace and stop crime and suggested that whatever racism exists in America isn’t his responsibility.
“We are going to have peace in this country,” he said. “We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on. A lot of bad things have been taking place over a long period of time.”
Trump concluded offering bromides about how he hopes he’ll “be able to do something” about how divided the country is, and mentioned the fact that his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kusher, and their children are Jewish.
“I think you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years,” Trump concluded. “I lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love.”
But in his response to the reporter’s question, Trump never explicitly condemned anti-Semitism — a glaring omission coming on the heels of a campaign that featuring a number of anti-Semitic dogwhistles and fueled harassment of Jewish reporters.
Trump’s chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, is a white nationalist who has been accused of being anti-Semitic. His inauguration speech theme was “America first,” a slogan made famous by a 1940s isolationist and anti-Semitic organization that had been opposed to America’s entry into World War II.
A week after making that speech, Trump took heat for releasing an International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that omitted any mention of Jews and instead made a generic reference to the “horror inflicted upon people by Nazi terror.” During his presser with Netanyahu, Trump appeared to try and atone for that, saying of Israel, “I can think of no other state that’s gone through what they’ve gone, and of survival in the face of genocide. We will never forget what the Jewish people have endured.”
In the three months following Trump’s victory, ThinkProgress tracked 261 hate incidents across the country. Attacks on the Jewish community represented 27 percent of the total, the most of any group. But on Wednesday, Trump passed up an easy opportunity to disavow that violence.