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Journalists targeted with more than 19,000 anti-Semitic tweets during election

Donald Trump supporters have occasionally directed Nazi symbols and anti-Semitic messages at the media. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

We wrote in April about anti-Semitic messages from Donald Trump supporters directed at magazine writer Julia Ioffe, now a Politico contributor. That kind of harassment, which has been directed at numerous other journalists as well, has continued unabated for much of the year. On Monday, Ioffe posted a disturbing message sent to Politico colleague Hadas Gold. 

The threatening image and text sent to Gold fit the pattern we noted six months ago. Now, the Anti-Defamation League has tried to quantify the trend. In a study published Wednesday, the ADL reported that journalists received 19,253 anti-Semitic tweets between August 2015 and July 2016. More than 800 journalists were targeted, but a relatively small cadre felt the brunt of the hate; 83 percent of the messages were aimed at just 10 reporters.

In 2016, people have read anti-Semitic tweets 10 billion times, many from Trump supporters

The ADL reported that "the words that show up most in the bios of Twitter users sending anti-Semitic tweets to journalists are 'Trump,' 'nationalist,' 'conservative,' 'American' and 'white.' "

"This finding does not imply that Mr. Trump supported these tweets, or that conservatives are more prone to anti-Semitism," the ADL noted. "It does show that the individuals directing anti-Semitism toward journalists self-identified as Trump supporters and conservatives."

The original post from April follows.

Some on the Internet are harassing journalist Julia Ioffe after she profiled Melania Trump in GQ and reported — among 5,600 words devoted overwhelmingly to other stuff — that the wife of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has a long-lost half-brother in Slovenia.

Melania Trump complained about the story on Facebook, and this is what followed.

(These were just the publishable ones. Some messages Ioffe shared included a Jewish slur that we're not printing here.)

Donald Trump's response to all this, in the unlikely event that he bothers to issue one, will be highly predictable: "I have no control over the people."

That's an actual quote from March, when the subject was violent acts committed by his supporters at rallies. It's also highly debatable; supporters take their cues from candidates. And Trump's rhetoric — not to rehash that whole argument — has at times suggested violence. At one rally (presumably joking), he contemplated whether he would ever kill journalists but ultimately decided he wouldn't.

How do we get to a place like this, though? Where virulent anti-Semitism is suddenly spewing forth in a very targeted way?

Let's start with Melania Trump's Facebook post, which was written in the first person but had Donald's (or his staff's) fingerprints all over it.

"Dishonest media?" That's all Donald.

Note that this statement doesn't actually claim any specific errors in Ioffe's reporting on Melania Trump's family. She's just upset that Ioffe wrote about her family in the first place. I wrote right after GQ published the article that digging up far-flung relatives often has limited value (Howard Kurtz at Fox News forcefully made the same point), but that doesn't make it inaccurate.

Want to run for president? Prepare to meet that half-brother you didn't know existed.

Melania Trump's only factual dispute centers on her skin-care line. Here's what Ioffe wrote:

Melania dabbles in design. Her line of affordable gem-spangled jewelry and watches, launched on QVC, reportedly sold out in 45 minutes during its initial broadcast. (Melania’s caviar-infused anti-aging creams haven’t sold as well, though a federal judge ruled in her favor in a lawsuit she filed against its promoters.)

It is a well-documented fact that the caviar cream was not a hit — and Melania Trump doesn't really argue otherwise. Instead, she blames the company with which she partnered for causing the flop by failing to adequately promote it (that's what the lawsuit was about). And Ioffe noted in her story that Melania Trump won the case.

In short, Melania Trump's objections don't amount to much. But it wasn't about getting a correction — something the Trump campaign rarely seeks directly. It was about galvanizing Trump supporters, who then (perhaps predictably) took it way too far.

This is hardly the first example of such nastygrams, in general — or anti-Semitic ones, specifically — aimed at journalists of all political persuasions. Noah Rothman, a conservative journalist and editor at Commentary magazine (founded by the American Jewish Committee) tweeted that he and his staff deal with this kind of stuff all the time.

To some degree, hateful trolls will always do their thing — no direction needed. But the Trumps hung a bull's eye on Ioffe's back by calling her out — for nothing, really. The candidate has spent 10 months whipping up fury at the press, and that Facebook post effectively funneled all the anger the Trump campaign has been fomenting onto Ioffe. Until there's a new target.

Donald Trump makes no secret of his desire to tamp down negative coverage. He vowed in February to "open up" libel laws as president to make it easier to sue journalists and news outlets. As I wrote at the time, it would be pretty tough to do that — not impossible, but pretty tough. He later confessed in an interview with Time magazine, "I don’t know exactly what it means to do that or exactly how it works."

But Trump knows how to spin and get his supporters to focus on something. He knows if he and his wife complain loudly about stories they don't like, his supporters will react in kind. This time, a specific element of Trump's support got involved, and it turned especially ugly.