White House press secretary Sean Spicer went on a tear Monday about criticism of the Trump administration’s statement commemorating International Holocaust Memorial Day, saying that those “picking on” the statement’s failure to explicitly mention Jews are “pathetic” and “nitpicking.”
“The statement was written with the help of an individual who’s both Jewish and the descendent of Holocaust survivors,” Spicer told reporters at a White House daily briefing. “To suggest that remembering the Holocaust and acknowledging all of the people, Jewish, Gypsies, priests, disabled, gays and lesbians, it is pathetic that people are picking on a statement.”
He cited an Republican National Committee statement issued at Christmas that reporters similarly seized upon.
“I remember we issued a statement at Christmastime calling Christ the king and many reporters that are in this room and otherwise started wondering if we were referring to the king as the President-elect,” Spicer said, his voice rising in volume. “Do you know how offensive that was to Christians?”
He said Trump “acknowledged the suffering that existed” and sought to make sure it was “enshrined” in memory so that similar events never take place again.
“The idea that you’re nitpicking a statement that sought to remember this tragic event that occurred and the people who died in it is just ridiculous,” Spicer said. “And I think to sit there and suggest that he was trying to single out anything, and any people of which he has shown such tremendous respect for, and such a willingness in terms of the state of Israel to go out there and show the partnership that needs to exist between us and the respect, and when you contrast that, frankly, a statement, a statement!”
A reporter later asked Spicer if Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and special adviser who is a Jewish descendent of Holocaust survivors, wrote the statement.
“Did I say that?” Spicer replied. “No.”
“You mentioned—” the reporter pressed.
“I know what I said. I didn’t say Jared’s name,” Spicer said. “No, I’m not getting into who wrote it, but he has several members of the Jewish faith on his senior staff. And to suggest that it was an omission of anything else is kind of ridiculous.”
The White House statement released on Friday mentioned the “victims, survivors, heroes” of the Holocaust and “the innocent” but did not specifically mention the 6 million Jews killed in concentration camps and cities throughout Europe.
Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the statement’s omission “puzzling and troubling,” while Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, condemned Trump’s “vague” language.
“Have you no decency?” Goldstein said in a statement.
On Sunday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus argued that the statement was about “everyone’s suffering” and said “there’s no regret” about the omission.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) responded in a tweet posted Monday morning, calling the omission a “historical mistake.”