After President Donald Trump accused Democrats of becoming an “anti-Jewish party,” the White House refused Monday to tamp down his claim, insisting the party’s refusal to specifically condemn a freshman lawmaker for her controversial comments amounted to an “abhorrent” display.
Speaking at her first formal briefing in more than a month, press secretary Sarah Sanders wouldn’t say whether Trump believes Democrats hate Jews, which is what he reportedly told Republican donors over the weekend at his Florida estate.
But she did little to disavow the notion, which Trump himself had previewed on Friday morning when he told reporters: “The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party, and that’s too bad.”
Three days later, Sanders insisted Democrats – rather than the President – answer for their views.
“Democrats have had a number of opportunities to condemn specific comments and have refused to do that,” she said. “That’s a question you should ask Democrats, what their position is, since they’re unwilling to call this what it is and call it out by name and take action against members who have done things like this.”
She was referring to the controversy over comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, including criticism of the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Israeli government, and an allusion to foreign allegiance that was seen by some as anti-Semitic.
That prompted House Democratic leaders to bring forward a resolution condemning hate and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, that was chastised by some Republicans as overly broad.
Sanders on Monday unfavorably compared Democrats’ response to that of Republicans following comments made by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in January that were sympathetic to white nationalism. In that instance, lawmakers formally reprimanded King.
“It should be done the way the Republicans did it when Steve King made terrible comments. We called it out by name, stripped him of his committee memberships and we’d like to see Democrats follow suit,” Sanders said.
Reminded that Trump himself had not called out King by name – instead he repeatedly claimed not to be following the matter – Sanders said she spoke for the President.
And pressed by CNN’s Jim Acosta on Trump’s own claim of “very fine people” on both sides in response to white nationalist deadly violence in Virginia in 2017, where some protesters chanted “Jews will not replace us,” Sanders insisted he’d “been very clear and consistently and repeatedly condemned hatred, bigotry, racism in all of its forms.”