WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his claim that Jewish voters who side with Democrats “are being very disloyal,” taking to Twitter to thank a conservative radio host and conspiracy theorist who claimed that Jews in Israel view Trump “like he is the second coming of God.”
A day after Trump told reporters that American Jews who vote for Democrats have “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” he repeated his refrain despite widespread condemnation from Jewish advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers.
“If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday, when asked about his earlier remarks.
Trump told reporters his comments were not anti-Semitic, and said he has been “responsible for a lot of good things in Israel.” The president has shared a close political relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, winning praise from Israeli leaders after he moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that Israeli leaders long sought over the protest of Palestinians.
On Wednesday morning, facing backlash over his initial comments from Tuesday, Trump shared quotes from U.S. conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root that likened Trump to the “King of Israel.”
“The Jewish people in Israel love him … like he’s the King of Israel,” Trump wrote in a tweet quoting Root. “They love him like he is the second coming of God … But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense!”
Trump thanked Root for his remarks. Root, who has a show that airs on cable TV’s Newsmax network, has promoted numerous conspiracy theories, including one previously elevated by Trump that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Root also has promoted a conspiracy theory claiming that Heather Heyer’s 2017 death at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was orchestrated by a wealthy Democrat. Heyer died after a 21-year-old Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. A jury found the driver guilty of Heyer’s death in 2018.
Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, in a tweet said, “Let’s be clear: What [President Trump] said was #antiSemitic. The charge of disloyalty or dual loyalty has been used against Jews for centuries.”
Greenblatt, appearing on CNN, said “it’s hard to think of something less kosher than telling the Jewish people you’re the king of Israel, and therefore, we should have some fidelity to you for that reason.”
Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement Wednesday condemning Trump’s statements.
“To my fellow American Jews, particularly those who support President Trump: When President Trump uses a trope that has been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences, he is encouraging — wittingly or unwittingly — anti-Semites throughout the country and the world. Enough,” Schumer said.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is Jewish, defended Trump on Twitter, saying “the President loves the Jewish people & the US-Israel alliance.”
Zeldin said Trump remarks were meant to push back against Democrats who have been critical of Israel. He singled out Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who last week were blocked from visiting Israel by Israeli officials who cited their support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement that seeks Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian occupied territories.
“[Trump] has prioritized delivering important victories for the Jewish people & the US-Israel alliance as well as pushing back on the Omar/Tlaib wing of the Dem party that views these issues very differently,” Zeldin tweeted.