Trump Official Reportedly Praised Defender of Holocaust Deniers

Teresa Manning, a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, praised Joseph Sobran, who had a long history of negative statements about Jews and their alleged influence in the U.S.

President Donald Trump
Saul Loeb/AFP

WASHINGTON -- An official appointed by the Trump administration to a senior position at the Department of Health and Human Services at one time praised a defender and political ally of Holocaust deniers, according to a report published on Monday by Mother Jones magazine. Teresa Manning, a deputy assistant secretary at HHS, who was a vocal anti-abortion activist and is now responsible for family planning policy, once called Joseph Sobran, a writer who strongly defended Holocaust deniers, “the finest columnist of his generation and a national treasure,” Mother Jones reported. 

The quotes attributed to Manning are from 2003, when she hosted a panel at a conference of anti-abortion activists. Sobran, who was one of the speakers at the conference, was a leading voice on abortion issues and also had a long history of negative statements about Jews and their alleged influence in the United States.

In introducing Sobran, Manning reportedly said: “He has been called the finest columnist of his generation as well as a national treasure. I wholeheartedly agree with both statements.” 

The report published on Monday notes that just a few months before that event, Sobran was a speaker at a conference organized by the Institute for Historical Review, an organization devoted to denying the historical facts of the Holocaust and promoting “research” that calls the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis, the methods used to exterminate the Jews and other core elements of the Holocaust into question.  

Sobran praised the anti-Semitic organization on multiple occasions and wrote in an article in 2001 that the group was being threatened by Jewish “thugs” who are narrow-minded and refuse to hold a “debate” on the true nature of the Holocaust. 

“Obviously, something disastrous happened to the Jews during World War II; even the revisionists don’t deny that,” he wrote. “But does the word ‘Holocaust’ accurately sum up the Jewish misfortune? Maybe so; maybe the secular Jewish-Zionist thugs and pressure groups are essentially right. But that’s a conclusion I’d want to reach as a free man, not because a different conclusion might result in my kneecaps being broken. And in this controversy, I know which side is appealing to my mind, and which is going for my kneecaps.” 

Sobran also defended David Irving, the Holocaust denier whose libel suit against historian Deborah Lipstadt was the subject of a book that she wrote as well as the film “Denial.” In his 2001 article, Sobran called Irving “brilliant” and added that “Irving has been fined $18,000 in Germany for arguing that an Auschwitz cyanide chamber was a mere replica. He was correct, but he had to pay anyway.”

Sobran also remarked: “The Holocaust controversy is so bitter that it can’t even be called a debate. One side refuses to debate, denying that there is anything to debate.” 

At the 2002 conference that took place just months before Manning praised him at the anti-abortion event, Sobran came to the defense of the Institute for Historical Review, saying “in my thirty years in journalism, nothing has amazed me more than the prevalent fear in the profession of offending Jews, especially Zionist Jews.” The Holocaust, he said, “has become a device for exempting Jews from normal human obligations.”

“In 1993, he was fired as a columnist for the conservative ‘National Review’ by editor William F. Buckley, who had once mentored Sobran and now disparaged his ‘contextually anti-Semitic’ writing,” Mother Jones noted.

Sobran died in 2010. His anti-Semitic rhetoric was mentioned in his Washington Post obituary, and according to the Mother Jones report, he had been well-known in right-wing political circles as early as the 1990’s, long before Manning praised him as a “national treasure” in 2003. The magazine said Manning failed to respond to a request for comment for its article.