White House Doubles Down on Holocaust Day Statement That Omitted Jews: 'We're Inclusive'

'We took into account all of those who suffered,' White House's Hope Hicks tells CNN.

Hope Hicks, White House director of strategic communications at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

In an attempt to explain why President Trump's statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day didn't include any mention of the Jewish people, the White House said on Saturday that the reason for this unusual wording was that among the victims of the Holocaust were also non-Jews. 

"Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered," Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump White House, told CNN in reply to question on the matter.

CNN added that Hicks also sent the network a link to an article on HuffPost U.K. which explained that besides the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, the Nazi regime also killed millions of other people.

Past statement by U.S. presidents commemorating the Holocaust have usually included a clear reference to the loss of six million Jewish lives and to the Nazi regime's unique focus on the Jews. Last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under criticism for failing to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in his Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. But while the Canadian learned the lesson and put out a more adequate statement this year, the Trump White House's reply to CNN seems like an attempt to double-down in face of criticism over its original misstep.

On Friday, after Trump's statement came out, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, wrote on his official Twitter account: "After the Holocaust took away so much from the Jews, we must not take the Holocaust itself away from the Jews." These words were a quote from a long speech that Dermer gave earlier that day at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, responded to the White House statement by calling it "puzzling and troubling," adding that past administrations – both Democratic and Republican – specifically mentioned the Jewish aspect when commenting on the Holocaust.  

When CNN tried to press the White House for further clarification, it received the following reply:  "It was our honor to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day."

The White House also referred the news network to a statement by Ronald Lauder, the President of the World Jewish Congress, who said that "any fair reading of the White House statement on the International Holocaust Memorial Day will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history." Lauder, a New-York based billionaire, met with the new president at Trump Tower in Manhattan last month.