The ultra-Orthodox reporter who received a tongue-lashing from US President Donald Trump at a press conference on Thursday later defended him against claims of anti-Semitism.
“It’s very unfair what’s been done to him and I understand why he’s so defensive. And I’m with him when it comes to being outraged about him being charged with this anti-Semitism,” Jake Turx, a reporter for Ami Magazine, told Fox News.
US Jewish groups and some lawmakers berated Trump for his treatment of Turx.
But asked whether he was angry by Trump’s reaction, Turx replied: “I’m going to say something that will surprise you and will probably surprise a lot of your viewers, but I was actually very hopeful because it shows a president who is so committed against this problem of anti-Semitism. That it bothers him on a personal level, a deep personal level, and it makes me very hopeful that he will work together with the community [to combat the phenomenon].”
“He’s done an unprecedented amount of outreach with the Orthodox Jewish community,” Turx said during the interview. “And so we understand why this is so hurtful for him, to see himself being called an anti-Semite.”
Earlier on Thursday, Trump shouted down two reporters who asked him about rising anti-Semitism in America, and said he “hates” being called an anti-Semite, although neither reporter called him an anti-Semite.
Trump, towards the end of a contentious news conference on Thursday and fielding questions about the multiple scandals and mishaps afflicting his young administration, said he wanted to take a question from a friendly reporter.
Turx volunteered, saying “I’m friendly,” and prefaced his question by saying that his community did not regard Trump as anti-Semitic.
“I haven’t seen anyone in my community accuse you or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic,” Turx said. “We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren, you are their zayde,” or grandfather.
Trump appeared to understand what Turx was saying, thanking him.
“What we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it,” Turx continued, citing dozens of bomb threats called into Jewish community centers in recent weeks.
Trump interrupted and accused Turx of dishonesty.
“It’s not a simple question, not a fair question,” he said. “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life.” He also said he was the “least racist person.”
Turx interrupted, saying he did not believe Trump was anti-Semitic, and Trump shouted him down, “Quiet, quiet, quiet.”
— Jake Turx (@JakeTurx) February 16, 2017
“See, he lied about, he was going to get up and ask a straight simple question, so, you know, welcome to the world of the media,” Trump said, as if speaking to himself.
“I hate the charge, I find it repulsive, I hate even the question,” he said. He then cited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement a day earlier at a joint press conference that “there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump.”
At first he appeared to forget the Israeli prime minister’s name, pausing for a few seconds before combining “Bibi” and “Netanyahu” coming up with “Betanyahu.”
“You heard the prime minister, you heard Betanyahu yesterday, did you hear him? Bibi,” Trump said. “He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time,’ and then he said, ‘Forget it,’ so you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”
Minutes later, another reporter tried to raise a similar question, asking about “rising anti-Semitism,” some of it committed in his name.
Trump, once again interrupting, replied that he thought a lot of the instances were his opponents trying to smear him by disguising themselves as his supporters.
“Some of that anger is caused the other side,” he said. “It won’t be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you.”
He defended his record, saying the country was divided long before he took office, and that it was his plan to unite it.
Turx on Twitter said he hoped the White House would understand that Trump misunderstood his question.
President Trump clearly misunderstood my question. This is highly regretful and I'm going to seek clarification. #TrumpNewsConference
— Jake Turx (@JakeTurx) February 16, 2017
“President Trump clearly misunderstood my question,” he said. “This is highly regretful and I’m going to seek clarification. #TrumpNewsConference”