A Jewish aide reportedly wrote US President Donald Trump’s statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day which was widely condemned for failing to mention Jews or anti-Semitism.
In the speech Trump vowed to combat the forces of evil, and called on listeners to “make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world,” but failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism. The omission was condemned by Jewish organizations across the spectrum, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Democratic Virginia Senator Tim Kaine called it Holocaust denial.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the speech on Monday, saying “the statement was written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendent of Holocaust survivors.” He also called protests over the omissions “pathetic” and “nitpicking.”
Earlier this month, Epshteyn was asked by The Daily Beast about anti-Semites supporting the Trump administration. He answered, “I’ve had family who died in the Holocaust.”
Formerly a New York-based investment banker and finance attorney, Epshteyn worked as a communications aide for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, focusing his efforts on the Arizona senator’s running mate, then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Epshteyn was born in Russia and emigrated to the US in 1993, aged 11, as a refugee along with his family. In a 2013 US News article Epshteyn thanked Senator Frank Lautenberg for easing “the restriction on refugee states and thereby allowed for tens of thousands of Jews like me from the former USSR to come to America.”
Epshteyn has been criticized for his business ties with Russia and for claiming on CNN that Russia did not seize Crimea.
Here's the video of an official Trump campaign surrogate saying, "Russia did not seize Crimea." https://t.co/MDNXfVYvMb (Starts around 4:30)
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) July 31, 2016
JTA contributed to this report.