President Donald Trump pledged on Tuesday to fight “bigotry, intolerance and hatred” and thanked states where he “won by double, double, double digits” during an impromptu speech at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. He addressed for the first time “horrible” anti-Semitic threats made against Jewish community centers.
Trump’s denouncement was his strongest on the subject to date. It followed a new wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers nationwide and the vandalism of dozens of tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Missouri.
“It’s a privilege to be here today,” Trump said at the museum. “This museum is a beautiful tribute to so many American heroes, heroes like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, the Greensboro students and the African-American Medal of Honor recipients, among so many other really incredible heroes.”
He said that he would return to see more of the museum.
“I’ll be back. I told you that. I could stay here for a lot longer, believe me,” Trump said. “It’s really incredible.”
Trump said he was “deeply proud” that the museum exists to honor “the millions of African-American men and women who built our national heritage.”
The President said the tour reminded him of “why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.
In an interview with MSNBC before the remarks, he said that “anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.”
Trump did not address the threats when asked about them during a press conference last week, and rejected the journalist asking about them out of hand.
“Sit down,” he told the reporter. “I hate even the question.”
The White House released a statement on Monday denouncing “hate-motivated violence of any kind” without specifically referencing anti-Semitism.
The Anti-Defamation League called on Trump’s administration on Monday to respond to threats against Jewish communities.
We are still waiting to hear what administration will do to address ongoing threats to Jewish communities #answerthequestion https://t.co/eBSPz6krb4
— ADL (@ADL_National) February 20, 2017
“We look to our political leaders at all levels to speak out against such threats directed against Jewish institutions,” ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
In his speech on Tuesday, Trump went on to thank Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson. He said it was “special” to see the museum’s exhibit dedicated to Carson and his family.
“Hopefully next week he’ll get his approval, about three, four weeks late,” Trump said. “But the Democrats, they’ll come along, I have no doubt they’ll come along.”
Trump also thanked Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) for joining him at the museum.
“A friend of mine, a great, great senator from South Carolina. I like the state of South Carolina,” he said. “I like all those states where I won by double, double, double digits.”
The President pledged to “bring this country together.”
“We have a divided country, it’s been divided for many, many years, but we’re going to bring it together,” he said.
He wrapped up his speech by saying that the museum was built with “tremendous love and passion,” not to mention “lots of money.”
“I just have to say that what they’ve done here is something that can probably not be duplicated. It was done with love and lots of money.” Trump said. “Lots of money. We can’t avoid that.”