Trump denounces 'horrible' anti-Semitic threats

2017-02-21 22:30
President Donald Trump speaks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

President Donald Trump speaks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

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Washington - After avoiding the subject for several days, President Donald Trump on Tuesday decried a spate of anti-Semitic threats against Jewish community centres across America as "horrible" and "painful."

Seizing the moment during his first visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, formally inaugurated just six months ago by his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump called for an end to "hatred in all of its very ugly forms."

He pushed a message of unity, saying he would work to "bring this country together" as he reacted to the dozens of bomb hoaxes phoned in to Jewish centres in recent weeks, which are now under investigation by the FBI.

"The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centres are horrible and are painful - and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil," Trump said.

At the weekend, more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri, the facility's director said.

Nearly a dozen Jewish community centres received bomb threats that prompted evacuations on Monday. All of the threats turned out to be hoaxes. Dozens of similar incidents have been reported since the start of the year.

Reacted defensively

While Trump's daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism in 2009, denounced the threats over the weekend, saying on Twitter that "we must protect our houses of worship & religious centres," the president had not commented despite repeated direct questions about the issue.

When asked specifically about the threats at a media conference last week, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, the Republican offered a curious answer, promising Americans they would be seeing "a lot of love."

He also mentioned his close family ties to Judaism: "so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren." His son-in-law Jared Kushner is now a top White House advisor.

The next day, when an Orthodox Jewish reporter asked Trump at a White House news conference about a post-election surge in anti-Semitic incidents in America, Trump reacted defensively, telling his questioner to "sit down."

Trump also said he was "the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life."

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us

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