Facing criticism for his relative silence on the topic, President Donald Trump began his first major speech to Congress by denouncing a recent wave of anti-Semitism.
In the first sentences of his joint address to Congress on Tuesday, the president decried the defaced Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats made against Jewish community centres across the US.
“As we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains,” Trump said.
He continued: “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centres and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
Throughout the first weeks of his presidency, Trump was somewhat less vocal in his denunciations of crimes aimed against Jews, and faced criticism over his selection of chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who led the far-right website Breitbart that has attracted some anti-Semitic readers.
Asked about the rise in anti-Semitic crimes earlier this month, Trump instead boasted about the size of his Electoral College victory during the 2016 election, while pointing out that his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, were Jewish.
“I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had — 316 Electoral College votes,” he said at the time. “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.”
Asked a similar question during a press conference the next day, Trump chastised the reporter, saying it was “not a simple question, not a fair question.”
“I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person,” Trump said.
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