President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitism a day after bomb threats to at least 10 Jewish community centers across the country and a large-scale cemetery vandalism in the St. Louis area.
Under pressure to condemn anti-Semitism in the wake of what has been called an uptick in incidents since he was elected, Trump told MSNBC on Tuesday morning, “Anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop, and it has to stop.”
The president made the remarks at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., after taking a tour. His daughter Ivanka was with him on the tour; a day earlier she had called for the protection of religious institutions and used the hashtag #JCC, and called on her father to do the same.
Asked by reporter Craig Melvin if his statement meant he was denouncing anti-Semitism “once and for all,” Trump replied: “Of course, and I do it whenever I get the chance to do it.”
Last week, Trump was asked during a news conference about the prior JCC bomb threats and what the government’s response would be to “an uptick in anti-Semitism.” Although the reporter did not suggest Trump was anti-Semitic, the president answered by denying he is an anti-Semite and called the question “insulting.” He ordered the reporter – who is an Orthodox Jew – to sit down, and did not answer the question.
Trump later told Melvin in a one-on-one interview about the racial divide in America that the tour was “a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and our Jewish community centers are horrible, are painful and they are a reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
Jewish groups and political leaders have called on Trump to speak out against anti-Semitism, especially after four waves of bomb threats called in to dozens of JCCs across the country in the past five weeks.
On Tuesday morning, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, in a tweet called on Trump to condemn anti-Semitism.
“JCC threats, cemetery desecration & online attacks are so troubling & they need to be stopped. Everyone must speak out, starting w/ @POTUS,” she wrote.
In a related development , A Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who made false bomb threats to Jewish community centers.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, made the offer Monday, hours after bomb threats were called in to 11 JCCs across the country, leading most of them to evacuate their buildings while police and FBI searched for explosives.
The threats – the fourth wave in about five weeks – targeted JCCs in Birmingham, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Paul, Tampa, Albuquerque, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville and Buffalo.
Louisville has not been targeted by the bomb threats, but the staff has been briefed on security protocols and knows what to do in the event that a threat should be made.
“It is the duty of American Muslims to offer support to the Jewish community and any minority group targeted in the recent spike in hate crimes nationwide,” CAIR’s national executive director, Nihad Awad, said in a statement. “We hope this reward will aid in the swift apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators.”
Awad noted the “tremendous level of support” offered to Muslim Americans by the Jewish community when Muslims have been targeted by hate in recent months.