We have changed the headline of this news story to better reflect its content. Since its publication, former Intercept reporter Juan Thompson was arrested and charged with making bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers and the Anti-Defamation League.
A wave of attacks on Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats against Jewish community centers might not be anti-Semitic acts but “the reverse,” Donald Trump hinted darkly on Tuesday, according to Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general.
Trump’s apparent embrace of a conspiracy theory popular on white supremacist websites — that the president’s political opponents might have staged the incidents to frame him or his supporters — came during a White House meeting with state attorneys general. At the meeting, Shapiro asked Trump about the spike in anti-Semitic acts during his presidency, including the vandalism of more than 100 tombstones at the Mount Carmel Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Shaprio found Trump’s response “a bit curious.”
Shapiro told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Trump said anti-Semitic attacks are “reprehensible” but sometimes “the reverse can be true.” According to Shapiro, Trump added, “Someone’s doing it to make others look bad.”
Shapiro, a Democrat, said that he and other officials from both parties “were a little bit surprised” to hear Trump suggest the incidents might be hoaxes.
As Michael Wilner, The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief, reports, the Anti-Defamation League has attributed the uptick in threats and attacks to white supremacists encouraged by Trump’s nativist political movement. Wilner also suggested that Trump’s attempt to posit an alternative explanation for the incidents looked like an effort to deflect blame away from from himself or his supporters.
By treating rising antisemitism as a political threat, Trump is acknowledging perpetrators are likely his supporters https://t.co/80fjMXZ8bI
— Michael Wilner (@mawilner) February 28, 2017
While it is unclear where Trump got the idea that the threats against Jews might be staged, the false-flag theory has been proposed by white supremacists, including David Duke, the former Klan leader whose support Trump was slow to disavow during his campaign.
About Trump's theory that the JCC threats are a false flag operation: 20 hours ago, the same theory appeared on a white supremacist site. pic.twitter.com/P4qi9L7w1G
— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) February 28, 2017
Some observers, including Allison Kaplan Sommer of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, took Trump’s use of the word “reverse” as a suggestion that the attacks on Jewish institutions might have been staged by Jews.
Trump reportedly suggests wave of anti-Semitic incidents could be false flags perpetrated by Jews https://t.co/6e3AaNRiyZ
— Allison K. Sommer (@AllisonKSommer) February 28, 2017
Trump either implying Jews coordinating a false flag operation or that Jews are an evil cabal persecuting non-Jews it is literally unclear https://t.co/FVpWviNkaL
— Anthony Oliveira (@meakoopa) February 28, 2017
His reported comments were quickly condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader.
ADL: "We are astonished by what the President reportedly said. It is incumbent upon the White House to immediately clarify these remarks." pic.twitter.com/NzLBSxI1Tj
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) February 28, 2017
Sen. Schumer responds: "That is an absurd and obscene statement." https://t.co/VMHIxfUizX
— Tarini Parti (@tparti) February 28, 2017
Earlier on Tuesday, as my colleague Zaid Jilani reported, one of Trump’s advisers, Anthony Scaramucci, suggested that Democrats might be behind the incidents.
When Trump was asked about his plans to address rising anti-Semitism at a news conference earlier this month, he berated the Orthodox Jewish reporter who raised the issue for asking “a very insulting question,” and described himself as “the least anti-Semitic person.”
At the same event, Trump claimed that some signs with anti-Semitic tropes or slogans held up at his rallies were created by his opponents, posing as supporters.
“Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they’re put up by the other side,” Trump said. “They’ll do signs and drawing that are inappropriate.
“It won’t be my people,” Trump told a reporter. “It will be people on the other side to anger people like you.”
However, his presidential campaign was threaded with anti-Semitic incidents. In the most notorious one during the election campaign, a Trump supporter went into an anti-Semitic tirade during a rally in Phoenix — screaming “Jew!S!A!” as the crowd chanted “U!S!A!”
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 30, 2016