A question at the daily White House briefing about a racially motivated killing in New York led to a charged exchange Monday afternoon about how the administration responds to hate crimes, especially anti-Semitic ones.
Reporter April Ryan asked press secretary Sean Spicer for a reaction to the rise in hate crimes, specifically last week’s slaying of Timothy Caughman in New York. The suspect, James Jackson, a white man, told investigators he had come to New York to kill as many black men as he could. Ryan had attempted to ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the case earlier in the briefing, but he left the podium without answering.
“I think hate crimes, anti-Semitic crimes of any nature should be called out in the most reprehensible way,” said Spicer. “There is no room for that in our country, and I think the president noted that in the joint address. There is one issue that despite policy should unite us; that’s calling out hate, calling out divisiveness based on the color of one’s skin, one’s religion, one’s gender. The president’s been very clear on that. He’s called it out before, with certain particular situations he made it very clear. At the opening of his joint address, that’s what he led with, a call to denounce hate no matter where we come from politically.”
Spicer then turned the tables on the questioner, saying that the White House and “people on the right” have come under unfair criticism over their responses to hate crimes.
“I do think that there has been a rush to judgment in a lot of other cases when it comes to in particular some of the anti-Semitic discussion. Where people have jumped to the conclusion about denouncing people on the right, and in that particular case we saw that the president was right and this rush to judgment by a lot of folks on the left was wrong, and none of them have been held to account on that, and that is something that equally needs to be called out. When people are charging something of someone that is not true, there’s been nothing to go back to those individuals, nothing on the left who came and asked for everyone on the left to denounce something that they weren’t guilty of. And I think there needs to be an equal go back in time and call out those individuals for rushing to judgment and calling out those individuals.”
Earlier this month, an American man was arrested for allegedly calling in threats to Jewish Community Centers, allegedly as a way to settle a romantic score. Last week an Israeli teen was arrested in other, similar cases. His motive has not been disclosed.
The White House has been criticized for its slowness to condemn the threats to the community centers, finally doing so last month after Trump neglected to denounce the attacks at a pair of press conferences. There were also criticisms of a White House statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that left out any mention of Jews. Spicer called those criticisms “pathetic.”
Trump also did not publicly denounce an attack at a Canadian mosque where six Muslims were killed. While the president phoned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to express his condolences, he made no mention on Twitter, where he called out an attack by “a new radical Islamic terrorist” in France that resulted in no fatalities six days later.
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