Jewish Democratic lawmakers are livid over President Donald Trump’s remarks this week accusing Jewish Americans of “great disloyalty” if they vote for Democrats, saying the president is stoking anti-Semitism.
The lawmakers’ outrage comes as Trump reiterated on Wednesday his disloyalty comment while broadening it out to all voters, telling reporters: “If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and Israel.” He also continued his attacks on Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, whom he accused of hating Israel over their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
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“When he uses a trope that’s been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences, he is encouraging — wittingly or unwittingly — anti-Semites throughout the country and world,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted on Wednesday. “Enough.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) also called on Trump to stop using “this kind of rhetoric.” He said on CNN Tuesday night that the president was “creating an environment in which anti-Semitism can flourish” and urged Democrats and Republicans alike to condemn the president’s remark.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), campaigning in Iowa, also weighed in, saying, “I am a proud Jewish person. And I have no concerns about voting Democratic. And, in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump quoted conservative commentator and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root as saying the Jewish people in Israel love Trump “like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he’s the second coming of God.” Trump further quoted Root: “American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.”
The president also reignited his feud Wednesday morning with Tlaib and Omar — the first Muslim women elected to Congress. His accusations that the progressive lawmakers are anti-Israel came to a head last week when he urged Israel to deny them entry into the country. Israel, which barred the pair, later said it would allow Tlaib to visit her grandmother in the West Bank. But the Michigan lawmaker refused, saying she opposed the restrictions placed on her.
Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) also criticized Trump’s remarks Tuesday on MSNBC and emphasized that Jewish voters do not form a monolith.
“Our president has no business trying to divide people based on their religion or politicizing people’s religion,” she said. “Being Jewish is also very much a cultural issue — it’s not just about religion — and the president seems to fail to understand that.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also denounced Trump’s remark, emphasizing the foreign policy implications of “politicizing our policy toward Israel and harming support for America’s strongest ally in the Middle East.”
“Donald Trump is using the oldest anti-Semitic slur in the book to slander the three-quarters of American Jews who voted for Democrats in the last election,” he said.
But the president also had supporters. The Republican Jewish Coalition, which endorsed Trump in 2016 and has praised his administration, defended him on Tuesday, tweeting that, “Trump is right, it shows a great deal of disloyalty to oneself to defend a party that protects/emboldens people that hate you for your religion.” Later on Wednesday, it tweeted that it takes Trump “seriously not literally.”
“President Trump is pointing out the obvious: for those who care about Israel, the position of many elected Democrats has become anti-Israel,” it posted on Twitter. “President Trump is talking about caring about the survival of the Jewish state.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, one of the few Republican Jewish members of Congress, also defended the president, though he conceded on Twitter Wednesday that Trump’s belief that Jews shouldn’t vote for Democrats “stirred debate, controversy & criticism.”
“As for Jewish voters, they don’t universally vote the same way, bc they prioritize different stances/issues,” he tweeted. “Some Jews, just like non-Jews, are liberal, moderate or conservative & some have made a life long pledge to always vote for a particular party.”