WASHINGTON — One of Donald Trump’s top foreign policy advisers has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks and discriminating against Jews by firing them from positions at the Pentagon.
Former Defense Department inspector general Joseph Schmitz, who joined the Republican nominee’s inner advising circle in March, allegedly bragged about purging his department of Jewish employees and making crude comments that downplayed the Holocaust like, “Ovens were too small to kill 6 million Jews.”
A senior intelligence official, Daniel Meyer, filed a formal complaint against Schmitz detailing these episodes, according to a report on Thursday by the McClatchy News Service.
Schmitz, who is now a private-practice attorney in Washington, DC, has denied the charges against him, saying, “These allegations are completely false and defamatory.”
“I do not recall ever even hearing of any ‘allegations of anti-Semitism against [me],’ which would be preposterously false and defamatory because, among other reason(s), I am quite proud of the Jewish heritage of my wife of 38 years,” he wrote in an email.
He reportedly had to clarify in a later phone call that his wife is not a practicing Jew but that she’s “ethnically Jewish” because of her maternal grandmother’s lineage.
In the complaint, Meyer cited top Pentagon official John Crane as someone who worked with Schmitz while he held his position from April 2002 to September 2005, and who could attest to having witnessed his remarks.
Meyer is not the only aggrieved person to come out against Schmitz. David Tenenbaum, a Jewish former Army engineer at the Tank Automotive Command in Warren, Michigan, alleges that Schmitz created a hostile atmosphere for Jews during his tenure.
“The anti-Semitic environment began under a prior Inspector General, Mr. Joseph Schmitz,” Tenenbaum’s lawyer stated in a letter to the current inspector general requesting an examination of the department’s atmosphere.
Meyer’s complaint is not the first instance in which Schmitz has generated controversy. He was forced to resign from that same job at the Defense Department 11 years ago over suspicions he was protecting officials in the George W. Bush administration suspected of malfeasance, according to Newsweek.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley accused Schmitz of impeding investigations of administration officials who had ties to war contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also questioned his relationships with various lobbyists in Washington.
While Schmitz denied the charges, he announced his resignation from the post in September 2004 and officially stepped down a year later.
This latest round of controversy for the Trump campaign is likely to amplify concerns that he harbors anti-Semitic supporters.
Critics cite his reluctance to immediately disavow former KKK grand wizard David Duke, his tweeting an image of Hillary Clinton with a six-pointed star superimposed with money and a caption that read “Most corrupt candidate ever!” and his refusal to unequivocally denounce his supporters who harass Jewish journalists on social media.
His modern Orthodox son-in-law Jared Kushner has publicly defended him, saying that as a Jew and grandson of a Holocaust survivor, he vouches for Trump’s philo-Semite bona fides.
“My father-in-law is not an anti-Semite,” he said in an op-ed last month. “The fact is that my father in law is an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife. His support has been unwavering and from the heart.”
Since 2005, Schmitz has taken the path of least resistance for former government officials, writing opinion pieces and taking on speaking engagements.
McClatchy reported on a speech he gave, in March 2015, at a Southern Methodist University forum on communism. One student who attended said his address insinuated that president Barack Obama is a de facto communist.
A professor who spoke there said he was “chilled” by meeting Schmitz. He wrote about the experience in the Dallas Morning News, comparing him to former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who was notoriously obsessed with exposing communist sympathizers in 1950s America.
In that July article, Kahn wrote: “What foreign policy advice will Schmitz whisper into Trump’s ear? I shudder to think what he might do in such a position of power.”