Donald Trump, in his first public comments on the controversy, expressed no regrets Wednesday night for tweeting an image widely criticized as anti-Semitic.
Instead, the presumptive Republican nominee unflinchingly defended the tweet on Saturday targeting Hillary Clinton, saying his staff “shouldn’t have” deleted it. Later Wednesday evening, Trump tweeted a picture of a Disney movie sticker book for “Frozen” that featured a six-pointed star.
“Where is the outrage for this Disney book? Is this the ‘Star of David’ also? Dishonest media!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s comments on Wednesday revived a controversy that appeared to be quickly fading under the weight of the news that Hillary Clinton’s private emails included classified information, and that she will not face charges. On a day when Clinton’s controversies dominated the airwaves, Trump resurrected his own.
Reached Wednesday night about Trump’s latest tweet, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, was baffled.
He said there was no comparison between the star on the “Frozen” book and “a Jewish star superimposed on money talking about calling a candidate being corrupt.”
“Just so we’re clear the image originated with a white supremacist – not with Disney animators in Burbank,” Greenblatt said of Trump’s since-deleted tweet.
Greenblatt said Trump needed to “simply acknowledge that millions of people were offended” and make it clear that anti-Semitic and racist views “don’t have a place in the campaign.”
Clinton’s campaign also quickly jumped on the opportunity to go back on the attack, tweeting: “Do you want to build a strawman?”
On Monday, the Clinton campaign knocked Trump for using a “blatantly anti-Semitic image” and criticized the de facto GOP nominee for refusing to apologize for the tweet.
At his rally, Trump also repeatedly slammed the media – including CNN – for its coverage of the controversy during a rally with thousands of supporters in the battleground state of Ohio and accused the media of having “racist tendencies.”
“Actually they’re racially profiling. They’re racially profiling. Not us. Why do they bring this up?” Trump said. “These people are sick.”
Critics of Trump’s tweet pointed out that the graphic, which featured Clinton and the star on a bed of money with the words “most corrupt candidate ever,” evoked common anti-Semitic imagery.
Then, the Anti-Defamation League, a leading group in the U.S. combating anti-Semitism and bigotry, slammed Trump’s use of the image and Greenblatt told CNN he had no doubt the imagery was anti-Semitic and said it was “the classic trope of Jews and money.”
Trump said he was not at all mad at his social media director, Dan Scavino, who posted the tweet. Trump pointed out that Scavino’s wife is Jewish.
Trump also doubled down on his comments about the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a human rights abuser whom Trump praised Tuesday night for his efficient killing of terrorists.
“I don’t love Saddam Hussein. I hate Saddam Hussein. But he was damn good at killing terrorists,” Trump said Wednesday.
Trump also praised former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is being vetted as a potential vice presidential pick and joined him at the rally.
“And I’m not saying anything, and I’m not telling you it’s Newt or anything. But I can tell you, in one form or another, Newt Gingrich is going to be involved with our government, that I can tell you,” Trump said. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he gets it.”
Gingrich, who ran in for president in 2012, spoke before Trump, hammering the Justice Department’s decision to not charge Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
“I cannot imagine more vivid proof of corruption,” Gingrich said, pointing in particular to former President Bill Clinton’s impromptu meeting with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an airport tarmac last week.
Trump repeatedly referenced Gingrich after taking over the podium.
“I’m not saying it’s Newt, but if it’s Newt, nobody is going to be beating him in those debates,” Trump said.
The businessman also plugged the candidacy of a fellow Republican facing a tough re-election fight, urging his supporters at the top of his speech and in closing to “go out and vote for Rob Portman,” while slamming the Ohio senator’s Democratic rival, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
And in a strange moment, Trump at one point squashed a mosquito buzzing around his podium.
“I don’t like mosquitos!” the billionaire real estate mogul shouted, before adding, “OK, speaking of mosquitoes, hello Hillary, how are you doing?”