The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect has a solid pedigree when it comes to addressing questions of anti-Semitic behavior. Founded by Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, in 1959, the New York-based organization expanded its scope in 2016 with a new executive director, Steven Goldstein, and the goal of becoming “a national leader in exposing and fighting hate.”
On Tuesday, that new mandate was made obvious, as the center blasted President Trump’s recent responses to anti-Semitic threats and vandalism as “a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration.” Later that evening, Goldstein appeared on CNN’s “OutFront.” There, he got into a brawl with the network’s on-staff Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany.
“So you think the president does not like Jews and is prejudiced against Jews?,” McEnany asked Goldstein. “You think that about the president of the United States?”
“You. Bet,” he replied. “And do you know why?”
“Wow is right, Kayleigh.”
“Does he hate his daughter?” McEnany asked. “Does he hate his son who’s [Jewish]?” Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner.
“You know what, Kayleigh?” Goldstein said. “I am tired of commentators like you from the right trotting out his daughter, trotting out his son-in-law as talking points against the president’s anti-Semitism. They are Jewish, but that is not a talking point against anti-Semitism, and that is a disgrace.”
With that, Goldstein inadvertently dismissed not only McEnany’s main argument against the idea that Trump is anti-Semitic — he also dismissed Trump’s.
Host Erin Burnett then played Trump’s full response to a question he was asked about anti-Semitic threats last week. Trump started by talking about his electoral votes and then said he would address “long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on.” Then, Burnett noted, “later on, he does say, ‘as for the Jewish people, I have a daughter.’ ”
We’ve said before that Trump’s responses to questions about anti-Semitic supporters of his candidacy have been noteworthy for their weakness. It’s also worth reviewing how Trump has pointed to Ivanka Trump as living proof that he’s not anti-Semitic.
At that news conference last week, Trump praised Ivanka and her husband and children. “As far as Jewish people — so many friends,” he said, “a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren.”
During his campaign last summer, Trump tweeted an image of rival Hillary Clinton overlaid on a pile of money with a six-pointed star next to her reading, “Most corrupt candidate ever.” The image was lifted from a social media account that apparently created it with explicit anti-Semitic intent. Trump addressed the simmering debate over the tweet during a speech in Cincinnati.
“They say it’s the Star of David,” he said. “I have a son-in-law who’s Jewish — Jared, who’s a great guy. My daughter is Jewish. I have grandchildren that are Jewish, okay? And I love them. I love them. And these are great people. Ivanka! Married a Jewish guy who’s brilliant, who’s wonderful, who’s got a great heart. They have kids, beautiful kids.”
The tweet about Clinton had been sent out by Trump social media director Dan Scavino. In the same speech, Trump explained what happened. “So one of my guys — who’s married to a Jewish woman; this is a very fine person, Dan Scavino — he put out a tweet talking about crooked Hillary Clinton.”
Earlier, in March, Trump had referred to Ivanka to bolster his credentials when speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “I’ve been with Israel so long in terms of I’ve received some of my greatest honors from Israel; my father before me, incredible,” he said. “My daughter Ivanka is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby. In fact, it could be happening right now, which would be very nice as far as I’m concerned.” (Ivanka’s son was born about a week later.)
And in December 2015, Trump addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition and led with his family ties. “You just like me because my daughter happens to be Jewish. Right?” he said. “She has a great husband, Jared, and, I’ll tell you what, Ivanka could not be happier, and she’s very proud.”
“The only bad news, I can’t get her on Saturday,” he added, referring to Ivanka and Jared’s observation of the Jewish Sabbath. “I call and I call. I can’t speak to my daughter anymore on Saturdays. But that’s okay.”
During this same speech, Trump said several other things that raised some eyebrows. “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals?” he said at one point. “Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”
Trump to the Republican Jewish Coalition: "You're not going to support me because I don't want your money." What the hell does that mean?
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) December 3, 2015
Interestingly, Ivanka Trump’s religious identity is itself the subject of debate. Last month, the Associated Press reported that she had received a special dispensation from religious authorities in Israel after the election certifying her conversion “without the need for additional checks.”
There was some indication that the Trump team pushed for the facilitated conversion, the AP’s Daniel Estrin reported.
The Jewish Week, a New York newspaper, quoted an anonymous source with ties to Trump’s presidential transition team as saying high-ranking aides had expressed concern to Israel regarding the legitimacy of Ivanka Trump’s conversion, and that Israeli efforts to recognize her conversion would foster a closer relationship between the Trump family and Israel.
“The timing is certainly suspicious,” one rabbi told Estrin.
As we noted Tuesday, broader questions about Trump’s attitudes toward minority groups often stem from his policy positions. (Assertions that he’s anti-Muslim, for example, generally follow from his rhetoric about terrorism.) That he has family members and friends who are Jewish can sound a bit like the classic anti-racist dodge: One of my best friends is black.
On CNN, Burnett summarized why that argument usually doesn’t work.
“Isn’t it true, though, Kayleigh — putting aside just your immediate discussion here — it is true that when somebody is close to somebody, they can see them differently than they see others,” she said. “They can see others as another, and they can see a person, ‘Well, you’re this, but it doesn’t matter.’ ”
McEnany pointed out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel gave Trump a vote of confidence. Then she turned to Goldstein.
“Steven,” she told the executive director of the Anne Frank Center, “you’re doing a disservice to your own cause.”