The Trump administration reportedly chose to ignore a State Department-penned statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day that explicitly mentioned Hitler’s Jewish victims.
According to the US website Politico, the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy on Holocaust Issues believed its statement was for the White House to release. But, the report says, the administration instead chose to release a statement that failed to specifically mention the genocide against the Jews during the Holocaust, a move that sparked broad censure from Jewish groups across the political spectrum.
In his statement, 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 numerous Jewish organizations, 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 statement, saying it was “written with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors.” He also called protests over the omissions “pathetic” and “nitpicking.”
It was later revealed that the statement was written by a Jewish special assistant to the president, Boris Epshteyn.
A White House spokesperson told Politico, however, that the State Department’s text was not deliberately rejected, but rather wasn’t seen by the administration until after it had already released its own statement. The official also said that, regardless of State Department claims, the White House had not asked it to produce a statement. In fact, the official added, the administration even asked the State Department not to release its own version.
Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust studies, writing in The Atlantic, said that while the initial omission may have been an error, the insistence on grouping Jews along with other victims of the Nazi regime is “what I term softcore Holocaust denial…It does not deny the facts, but it minimizes them.”
“It may have all started as a mistake by a new administration that is loath to admit it’s wrong,” she wrote. “Conversely, it may be a conscious attempt by people with anti-Semitic sympathies to rewrite history. Either way it is deeply disturbing.”