In February 2017 — in case past and future comments suggested otherwise — newly inaugurated President Trump told reporters: “I am the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” The sweeping pronouncement from the president, who once suggested that Jews might be committing fake hate crimes in order to make him look bad, has not stood the test of his presidency.
On Saturday, speaking before the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, President Trump engaged in the anti-Semitic trope of a Jewish obsession with wealth. Discussing Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan for a wealth tax, he said that Jews in the audience should “be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes.” Trump incorrectly said that the plan — which requires households to pay an annual 2 percent tax on every dollar of net worth over $50 million — would take “100 percent of your wealth away” and that “you’re not going to vote for the wealth tax.”
He doubled down on the bigoted tropes, broadcasting a harmful claim about Jewish business dealings. “A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well, you’re brutal killers,” Trump said. “You’re not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice.” He then switched gears, engaging in the ancient, yet enduring anti-Semitic claim surrounding Jewish loyalty, which he also evoked in August.
Jewish leaders promptly condemned the “least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life” for his anti-Semitism. Former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council Aaron Keyak said: “Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans.” Trump previously mentioned anti-Semitic tropes in a speech before a primarily Jewish audience in 2015, when he told the Republican Jewish Coalition that he’s “a negotiator, like you folks.”
Speaking with Newsweek, Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said: “We strongly denounce these vile and bigoted remarks in which the president – once again – used anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal to Israel. He even had the audacity to suggest that Jews ‘have no choice’ but to support him … Jewish support for the GOP has been halved since Trump has been in office, from 33 percent in 2014 to 17 percent in 2018, because Trump’s policies and rhetoric are completely antithetical to Jewish values.”
Though the uptick cannot be blamed solely on the president’s anti-Semitic language and the emboldening of the far right under his watch, hate crimes targeting Jewish Americans have spiked during the Trump administration: Anti-Semitic hate crimes increased by 37 percent in 2017 and a staggering 105 percent in 2018, the year that a white supremacist killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.