Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday condemned a massive act of vandalism against a Jewish cemetery in Missouri.
Speaking at the Fabick Cat distribution center in Fenton, Missouri, Pence opened his remarks by addressing the nearly 200 tombstones that were desecrated at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri over the weekend.
“Before we get started, I’d like to address something that happened here in St. Louis over the weekend,” Pence said. “On Monday morning, America awoke to discover that nearly 200 tombstones were toppled in a nearby Jewish graveyard. Speaking just yesterday, President Trump called this a horrible and painful act. And so it was.”
“That, along with other recent threats to Jewish community centers around the country, he declared it all a sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil. We condemn this vile act of vandalism, and those who perpetrate it, in the strongest possible terms,” he said.
“Let me say, it’s been inspiring to people all across this country to see the way the people of Missouri have rallied around the Jewish community with compassion and support,” Pence added. “You have inspired this nation with your kindness.”
Pence referenced his recent trip to Dachau, a concentration camp near Munich, Germany during World War II. He recalled a conversation with a Holocaust survivor who described the “hellish existence” in the camps near the end of the war, and then told Pence: “Then the Americans came.”
“The American soldier fought to end the hatred and violence against Jewish people across Europe then. And as President Trump said yesterday, America will always, in his words, fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all its ugly forms, wherever it will arise. That’s the American way.”
The statement was the Trump administration’s most direct stance against anti-Semitism yet, and followed President Trump’s acknowledgement of a series of bomb threats against Jewish community centers, and the cemetery vandalism, on Tuesday.
The White House has not still not applied similar condemnation to a surge in anti-Muslim hate groups. Asked about that trend, documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer spoke instead about “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Watch part of Pence’s remarks below via ABC News:
Pence on vandalism of Jewish cemetery: “We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrated it in the strongest possible terms” pic.twitter.com/opeoWo5voD
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 22, 2017
The Vice President later visited Chesed Shel Emeth to survey the damage.
“There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism,” he told volunteers over a megaphone. “I must tell you, the people of Missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place, for the Jewish community in Missouri, and I want to thank you for that inspiration, for showing the world what America is really all about.”
This post has been updated.