WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Monday repeatedly refused to say whether President Donald Trump really thinks Democrats “hate” Jewish people.
Before Trump left the White House on Friday for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, he said: “The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party, and that’s too bad.” Later in the day, Trump told Republican National Committee donors that Democrats “hate” Jewish people, according to a person who heard the remarks but spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the president’s comments at a private event.
Trump’s comments followed an emotional debate on Capitol Hill about statements made by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim lawmaker from Minnesota who suggested Israel’s supporters were pushing lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance” to a foreign country — comments that some viewed as anti-Semitic.
Democrats wrestled for days over whether a House resolution should call Omar out by name, what other types of bias should be mentioned in the measure and whether the party would tolerate dissenting views on Israel. When the final resolution passed the House, it did not mention Omar by name. Trump called the resolution “disgraceful.”
Sanders refused several times to say whether Trump really thinks Democrats “hate” Jews.
“The president has been an unwavering and committed ally to Israel and the Jewish people and, frankly, the remarks that have been made by a number of Democrats and failed to be called out by Democrat leadership is frankly abhorrent and it’s sad,” she said.
“It’s something that should be called by name. It shouldn’t be put in a watered-down resolution. It should be done the way the Republicans did it when Steve King made terrible comments,” Sanders said. “We called it out by name. We stripped him of his committee memberships and we’d like to see Democrats follow suit.”
In January, the House approved a Democratic measure disapproving of comments that Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, made about white supremacy. King had a long history of controversial rhetoric about immigrants, but it wasn’t until he defended white supremacy in an interview with The New York Times that Republicans in Congress moved to strip him of committee assignments and called for his resignation.
In August 2017, after violence erupted at a white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump said “both sides” were to blame, a comment some saw as a refusal to condemn racism.
“The president has been incredibly clear and has consistently and repeatedly condemned hatred, bigotry, racism in all of its forms whether it’s in America or anywhere else,” Sanders said Monday.