Trump on script

Deborah Lipstadt: Trump’s remarks are not enough

Holocaust historian says white supremacy is ‘not just racism, but deep seated antisemitism’

Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Washington.

Holocaust historian and author Deborah Lipstadt told Jewish Insider on Monday that President Donald Trump’s remarks on white supremacy did not go nearly far enough. 

Trump issued a public rejection of white supremacy following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend.

“Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said in his formal address to the nation on Monday, something he was reluctant to say in response to the neo-Nazi march on Charlottesville, Virginia, in the summer of 2017. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.” 

But Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, told JI she was not satisfied. 

“While it was good to hear him finally utter those words  — white supremacy — lumping this issue with mental health and gun control obscures the fact that white supremacy is amongst the primary, if not the primary, motivating factor of these domestic terrorists,” Lipstadt explained. “These are not a bunch of crazies who need help. They are haters who are doing great damage. It’s time for our government to take them very seriously. Thankfully, the FBI seems to be doing so.” 

The Holocaust scholar and expert added: “At the heart of white supremacy is not just racism, but deep-seated antisemitism.”  

In an interview with Jewish Insider on Monday, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said he had hoped the president would apologize. 

McAuliffe said he expected and wanted the president to stand up and say: “‘You know what? My words have incited individuals and [have] fostered hatred and division in our country, and I apologize for that… To the young people who have heard my words, I apologize. I want you to work together. I don’t want any more violence,’” McAuliffe stated.

“If he did that, he would rise to the level of what we expect from a president of the United States of America,” added McAuliffe, who recently published a book on the events in Charlottesville. 

Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, told JI that the remarks were a “lost opportunity” for Trump.

While we should welcome the president’s remarks “because it is important coming from him, especially at this tragic moment in our country — it was too much to expect him to take the blame for his hateful rhetoric,” Foxman said, “he didn’t move the ball forward to help prevent future tragedies. He reverted to political expediency — patronizing his base, ignoring the issue of guns, and being intellectually dishonest in blaming the crisis on the media, internet and mental illness.”

Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, noted on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on Monday that “we did not hear from the president the words ‘I, personally, rebuke and reject the ideology of hate. I will not stand for this anymore. I do not need or want your support.’”

“I didn’t hear that,” Figliuzzi said. “I didn’t hear the active voice. I heard a passive collective voice of ‘our nation must reject.’”

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