White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday called the repeated emphasis on the Trump administration’s omission of Jews in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement “pathetic.”
“The statement was written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors,” Spicer told reporters at the daily briefing. “To suggest that remembering the Holocaust and acknowledging all of the people — Jewish, gypsies, priests, disabled, gays and lesbians — I mean, it is pathetic that people are picking on a statement.”
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In a statement released by the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump made no mention of the millions of Jews who were slaughtered in the Holocaust.
Spicer said Monday that Trump “went out of his way to recognize the Holocaust,” the suffering and loss of life. “He’s aware of what people have been saying, but I think by and large he’s been praised for it,” he added.
Spicer initially tried to point the finger at President George W. Bush’s administration, although a reporter corrected him after he inaccurately insisted the Bush White House didn’t acknowledge Jews or anti-Semitism in its statement, either.
He then recalled confusion after the Republican National Committee released a Christmas statement referring to “a new King.” Some speculated the reference was to then President-elect Trump, but Spicer later clarified it was to Jesus Christ.
“Do you know how offensive that was to Christians? I mean, the idea that you’re nitpicking a statement that sought to remember this tragic event that occurred and the people who died in it is just ridiculous,” Spicer said. “I think he acknowledged the suffering that existed and wants to make sure that it’s enshrined in the American people’s memory so that something like this never ever happens again.”
Spicer argued that Trump has “tremendous respect” for Jewish people and painted him as a friend of Israel. “And when you contrast that, frankly, a statement — a statement — and you look at the actions of the last administration: the Iran nuclear deal, them giving Palestine an equal footing in terms of the amendment that was passed at the U.N. Security Council on their way out the door,” Spicer began. “To compare a statement that remembers the Holocaust with the actions of the last eight years and the disrespect that was shown to Israel is unbelievable.”
“Where were the questions about the U.N. Security Council resolution that came forward?” he asked. “And the idea of this unprecedented step that the outgoing administration took as a massive slap in the face of Israel? Where were the questions then?”
Trump’s White House statement drew widespread condemnation on Friday and through the weekend for its omission. His statement remembered, specifically, “the victims, survivors and heroes of the Holocaust,” as well as “innocent people” targeted by the Nazis.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted Friday that the White House statement “misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people.’”
The Republican Jewish Coalition released its own statement over the weekend, calling the missing reference “an unfortunate omission.” And Mort Klein, the national president of the Zionist Organization of America, added that he was “compelled to express our chagrin and deep pain at President Trump” for his omission of anti-Semitism and the 6 million Jews “who were targeted and murdered by the German Nazi regime and others.”
White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN on Saturday that the statement lacked a specific reference to Jews because “despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.”