President Trump repeated his claim Wednesday that American Jews who vote for Democrats are “disloyal,” refusing to back away from divisive language that has been widely criticized as anti-Semitic and anti-democratic, and called himself “the chosen one” who is confronting China on trade.
“If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn before he left the White House to address a military veterans group in Louisville, Ky.
Trump thus did little to quell the furor he sparked Tuesday when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats showed “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” which critics said promoted an anti-Semitic stereotype and was highly offensive.
On Wednesday, Trump repeated his false claim that the Democratic Party is “anti-Israel” and bragged about having moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and having withdrawn from the Iran nuclear agreement, citing them as reasons Jewish voters should support him.
American Jews tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Only one in four Jewish voters cast a ballot for Trump in 2016, according to exit polls, and the president has sought to broaden that modest support for his reelection campaign.
But Jews have long bristled at the accusation of “dual loyalty,” which implicitly questions their allegiance to the United States, and many view his incendiary tweets and racist slurs with alarm.
Asked specifically about people who considered his comments anti-Semitic, Trump insisted that it isn’t. “No, no, no. It’s only in your head,” he said. “It’s only anti-Semitic in your head.”
Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted thanks for the “very nice words” from Wayne Allen Root, who is best known for advancing the racist conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and for suggesting that Islamic State was behind the lone gunman who killed 58 people and wounded 422 at a music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017. The gunman killed himself and his motivation was never determined.
In a tweet, Root called Trump “the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world” and said Israeli Jews love him "...like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God... But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.”
The second coming is part of Christianity, not Judaism.
Trump’s language regarding Jews drew sharp condemnation from Democrats and major Jewish groups.
“To my fellow American Jews, particularly those who support President Trump: When President Trump uses a trope that has been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences, he is encouraging — wittingly or unwittingly — anti-Semites throughout the country and the world. Enough,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
As he often does, Trump riffed on a number of topics during the impromptu news conference, often contradicting himself or retreating from previous positions.
He reversed his position of a day ago, when he had told reporters that he was looking at a payroll tax cut, among other measures, to boost an economy that is showing signs of slowing.
“I’m not looking at a tax cut now,” Trump said Wednesday. “We don’t need it. We have a strong economy.”
Trump said that he had canceled his planned Sept. 2-3 trip to Copenhagen because he felt disrespected by the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, who had dismissed Trump’s reported interest in buying Greenland, the vast semiautonomous Danish territory, as absurd. Trump initially had thanked Frederiksen “for being so direct,” but on Wednesday he lashed out at her.
“I thought that the prime minister’s statement that it was ‘absurd’ was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement,” Trump said. “I thought it was a very not nice way of saying something.”
He rejected reports that he told Wayne LaPierre, president of the National Rifle Assn., on a phone call Tuesday that he was no longer considering stiffer background checks for gun sales, giving in to the group’s demands.
Trump insisted Wednesday he has “an appetite” for background checks but he didn’t commit to them, saying, “We already have a lot of background checks.” He expressed hope about doing “something meaningful” about gun violence. “We want to fix the weaknesses,” he said without elaborating.
And as he spoke about the ongoing trade war with China, Trump asserted that history — or a higher power — had left it to him to level the global economic playing field.
“Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one,” he said, looking up theatrically at the sky. “Somebody had to do it. So I’m taking on China. I’m taking on China on trade. And you know what? We’re winning.”