President Donald Trump, who has faced frequent accusations of racism, regularly polls poorly among Blacks and Latinos. He is just as unpopular with most Jewish Americans.
In 2016, Jewish Americans voted for Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by a considerable majority. However, among Orthodox Jews, Trump had 50% support.
Trump has appealed to conservative Jews thanks to his strong advocacy for the state of Israel. Despite this, Trump has repeatedly been accused of antisemitism. Over the years, he has used stereotypically racist tropes about Jewish people while occasionally making statements that some view as “dog whistles” to white supremacist supporters.
A recent comment by Trump about Henry Ford, a man well-known for his anti-Jewish rhetoric, has again led to accusations of antisemitism.
Trump comments on Ford’s “good bloodlines”
On Thursday, May 21, Trump was visiting a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was praising the work being done to produce ventilators to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In a seemingly off-script moment, Trump said of Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford auto company, “Good bloodlines, good bloodlines, do you believe in that stuff? Got good blood.”
The Israel-based news site, The Jerusalem Post, outlined why Trump’s “good bloodlines” line is especially concerning to Jewish listeners. While Ford is known as the producer of the Model T car and the assembly process that helped streamline automobile production, he was also notoriously antisemitic.
In the 1910s, Henry Ford purchased a newspaper and published a series of articles claiming that there was a vast Jewish conspiracy infecting the country. Ford later published the series as a book entitled “The International Jew.”
Ford’s antisemitic views were so well known that future German chancellor Adolf Hitler mentioned him by name in “Mein Kampf.” Hitler was even said to be inspired by Ford.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) responded to Trump’s bloodlines remark on Friday, harshly criticizing him for “using Nazi terminology to describe Ford and his descendants.” The press further claimed, “Neo-Nazis and white supremacists hear the President’s message of solidarity loud and clear.”
Unlike Biden, Trump faces scant blowback
Despite the outrage, though, Trump’s comments at the Ford factory received less press than a purported racist gaffe made by his likely 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
During a Friday interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club,” Biden said, “If you’ve got a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t Black.”
Biden faced an immediate backlash to those comments from the Black community, as well as from both sides of the political aisle. Biden apologized for his “cavalier” comments the next day.
Trump has not yet apologized nor addressed his comments from Thursday.
Trump’s embrace of antisemitic tropes
Trump’s “good bloodlines” comment may not have gotten any attention at all if it were not for the multiple occasions he has used antisemitic tropes in the past.
In August 2019, Trump claimed American Jews who voted for Democrats were “very disloyal” to Israel. Critics claimed this was an allusion to the trope that American Jews had a dual loyalty to Israel and the US. This idea implies they aren’t true citizens and cannot be fully trusted as Americans.
More recently, in December 2019, Trump spoke at the Israeli American Council conference. Speaking to attendees, Trump said, “You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me, you have no choice.” Trump said they could not vote for Democrats because the opposition party wanted to pass a wealth tax.
“Some of you don’t like me,” Trump added. “Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if [the Democrats] get it.”
The JDCA and other progressive groups criticized Trump at that time, saying he was relying on a common antisemitic trope that Jewish people only care about money.
It echoes a sentiment Trump is alleged to have said decades ago. In a 1991 book written by John O’Donnell, a former president of the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, Trump is quoted as saying, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”
When questioned about the book, Trump replied, “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
Antisemitism on Twitter
Trump’s frequent tendency of sharing supportive comments from followers has on multiple occasions led him to retweet accounts that have shared antisemitic and white supremacist views. Trump has retweeted a number of accounts that have since been suspended for violating Twitter’s terms of service.
In July 2016, during the presidential campaign, Trump tweeted an image of Clinton with the comment, “Crooked Hillary – – Makes History!” Next to Clinton’s picture was the phrase “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” inside a six-pointed star that resembled the Jewish Star of David. The background of the image was a collage of hundred dollar bills.
The tweet was deleted within hours and Trump tweeted the image again, this time with the star replaced by a circle. Even Republicans took issue with it at the time, with one labeling it an “anti-Semitic dog whistling tweet.”
The Trump campaign defended the original picture as innocent, claiming the shape was meant to be a sheriff’s badge, not a Star of David.
Trump’s support from white supremacists
The president has maintained support from groups and individuals that hold antisemitic views. At a time when antisemitic attacks and harassment are on the rise in the US, Trump’s support among white supremacists has been a troubling trend.
David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has been outspoken in his support of Trump, both before and after the election. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says Duke is “the most recognizable figure of the American radical right, a neo-Nazi, longtime Klan leader and now international spokesman for Holocaust denial.”
In February 2016, after being asked about Duke’s support, Trump failed to outright denounce Duke’s endorsement. When pressed about it later, he claimed a bad earpiece kept him from hearing the question. Later that day, Trump tweeted a video of himself being asked about the endorsement and saying of it, “I disavow.”
In July 2019, the Trump administration invited Ben Garrison, a far-right political cartoonist, to the White House for a Social Media Summit. Garrison had previously been accused of drawing an antisemitic cartoon in 2017 that depicted billionaire George Soros as a puppet master of the American military.
Soros and the Rothschild family, whose name also appears in the cartoon, are both Jewish and frequently the subject of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
But Trump’s white supremacist problem doesn’t just exist among his supporters. Two members of Trump’s campaign have deep ties to the alt-right and white nationalist beliefs.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Chief Strategist, helped turn the Breitbart website into a “platform of the alt-right.”
The man currently in charge of the Trump administration’s immigration policy is Stephen Miller. Last year, Miller was found to have previously shared white nationalist talking points and websites with Breitbart writers. He has also pushed policies that restrict immigration from non-white countries.
Trump’s support of Israel
The Trump administration has made a point of showing support for the state of Israel, often to the displeasure of Palestine with whom Israel is in a protracted military conflict. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Trump have frequently expressed support for one another.
In May 2018, the United States opened an embassy in Jerusalem. Trump also changed US policy to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While both moves were celebrated by Israel – and denounced by Palestinian officials – the decision was allegedly a way of shoring up Trump’s support among evangelical Christians in America.
Many evangelical Christians believe Israel must be a fully autonomous nation in order to fulfill Biblical end-times prophecies.
It is worth noting that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism before she married Kushner, and both of them work in Trump’s White House.
Trump has been quick to state that his political opponents are antisemitic. For instance, House Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, both Muslims, have each been accused of antisemitism from Jewish groups.
Tlaib is of Palestinian descent and has been critical of the Israeli government. Omar is a Somali immigrant and is alleged to have spread antisemitic tropes, including the idea that Jewish Americans have dual loyalty.In August 2019, Trump tweeted, “Rep Tlaib wants to cut off aid to Israel. This is the new face the of [sic] Democrat Party? Read the…statements on their hatred of Jews and Israel. Check out Rep. Omar (the great people of Minnesota won’t stand for this).
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