The Washington Post‘s Eugene Scott has decided to fact-check President Donald Trump’s claim Friday: “The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party, and that’s too bad.”
The president made that statement after Democrats passed a weak resolution on antisemitism that failed to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her recent hateful remarks and submerged antisemitism among other forms of discrimination. Omar refuses to apologize and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is defending her. Even some Democrats were angry at the outome: “This shouldn’t be so hard,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).
But the Post decided to ride to the rescue, fact-checking Trump’s opinion with arguments that had nothing to do with the present circumstances, and recycling false claims from Democrats that the president himself is antisemitic.
Scott’s first argument against the idea Democrats have “become an anti-Jewish party” was to cite the voting patterns of American Jews. Roughly 70% of the Jewish vote goes to Democrats and 30% to Republicans, and there are more Jewish Democrats in public office than Jewish Republicans. If Democrats were really “anti-Jewish,” Scott argued, Jews would not prefer to vote Democratic or to run as Democrats in large proportions.
But Trump’s argument has to do with what Democrats are becoming, not what they have been. It is likely that at least some Jewish voters will agree in the next election.
Moreover, the reason Jews vote for Democrats has little to do with the party’s position on issues relating to the Jewish community and more to do with the fact that Jews tend to be liberal. “Nationally, American Jewish voters cite healthcare (43 percent), gun violence (28 percent), Social Security and Medicare (21 percent) and the economy (19 percent) as being among their top two issues. Only 4 percent listed Israel among their top voting issues, a decline from 9 percent in 2016,” the radical left-wing group J Street, which often opposes Israel, said in a press release after the 2018 elections. Generally, more observant Jews and more pro-Israel Jews have tended to vote Republican in recent years.
Scott then went on to argue that “the president has come under fire for remarks that some found anti-Semitic.” He tried to debunk the idea that Democrats could “become an anti-Jewish party” by arguing that Trump himself was “anti-Jewish.” It was a rather pathetic attempt, recycling several familiar, and false, attacks.
He began with the Charlottesville hoax: “After white nationalists marched through Charlottesville, chanting ‘Jews will not replace us,’ Trump called some of the protesters ‘very fine people,’ a comment that drew harsh condemnation.” As is clear from the transcript of Trump’s remarks, he condemned the white nationalists and neo-Nazis several times — a fact Scott failed to mention. In the phrase “very fine people,” Trump was referring to peaceful protesters against the removal of a Confederate statue as opposed to the white supremacist group.
Scott next claimed that Trump “defended .. the use of an image of a six-point star, which resembled the Star of David, over a pile of $100 bills” during the 2016 campaign. The image was used inadvertently and was quickly replaced; even left-leaning Politifact, which criticized Trump for “lack of message discipline,” came to the conclusion that “it seems unlikely that the Trump campaign intended to put out a Star of David image.”
Next, Scott claimed, “At a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015, Trump made comments that reinforced stereotypes about Jewish people.” He did not cite the comments directly — because as both Trump and the audience understood, he was joking. Among laugh lines like, “You just like me because my daughter happens to be Jewish … The only bad news, I can’t get her on Saturday,” Trump also used edgier material: “I don’t want your money.” The audience did not find the jokes offensive because of the context of familiarity.
(Notably, Scott neglected to mention Trump’s immediate Jewish family members anywhere in his article.)
Finally, Scott noted that “in the final days of the campaign, [Trump] made headlines for running an adthat referenced the ‘global power structure’ attempting to control the world through Clinton while featuring images of prominent Jewish leaders like George Soros.” Soros is Jewish, but he is not a “prominent Jewish leader.” If anything, given his anti-Israel views and advocacy, he is the opposite. The ad itself was a standard attack on the “political establishment,” not Jews, and the supposed “Jewish leaders” included Janet Yellen, then-chair of the Federal Reserve. The only reason the ad “made headlines” was because Democrats, and the media, were (and remain) primed to pounce on anything Trump said or did as evidence of latent antisemitism or racism.
At that point, Scott ran out of ammunition. He allowed that Trump has been good for Israel, but added that “being pro-Israel and being the party of American Jews is not the same thing.”
Notably, Scott did not even try to debunk Trump’s claim that “Democrats have become an anti-Israel party.” That part seems beyond debate.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.