Jewish Groups, Politicians Furious Over Trump's Far-right Pandering

Anger and astonishment was expressed by a range of Jewish organizations and political figures on Tuesday after the president seemed to draw a moral equivalence between far-right, neo-Nazi protesters and counter-demonstrators

Protesters for and against the president rally near the Trump Tower, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in New York.
Craig Ruttle/AP

President Trump's comments on Tuesday in defense of the far-right demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, drew a barrage of angry reactions from leading Jewish American organizations and political figures, who denounced the President for stating that there were "fine people" among the racist and anti-Semitic demonstrators, and for insisting that there were "two sides" to the story. 

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti Defamation League, said he was "astonished" by the president's words, and that "there are no fine people among the ranks of Nazis."

He also called Trump's remarks "un-American" and taunted the President on social media for receiving support from Nazi supporter David Duke.

"You can tell a lot about a person by the friends he keeps," Greenblatt wrote.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, wrote that "Hate, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia were easy to spot in Charlottesville. Speaking against them should be easy too."

The Reform Movement's president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, added his own criticism of the President, stating: "There is no defending Nazis or the KKK. And no defending people who don't know that." 

Another organization that came out against the president's comments was the American Jewish Committee, which directed a tweet at Trump, asking "Why is it so hard to see?" that the Nazi and racist demonstrators were to blame for the events in Charlottesville.

The left-wing Jewish group J Street issued a statement saying that "President Trump today made unequivocally clear that he lacks the basic decency and moral understanding that should be required of any public official, let alone the President of the United States. There are simply no excuses for his comments and his conduct in this matter." 

Jewish legislators on Capitol Hill offered harsh reactions as well. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii stated: "As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President."

Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York said that Trump's comments prove that his controversial statement on Saturday, which lacked any clear statement against against the far-right had represented his real thoughts on the matter.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also of New York, said that "By saying he is not taking sides, Donald Trump clearly is. When David Duke and white supremacists cheer, you’re doing it very very wrong."