Asked by a group of state attorneys general on Tuesday, President Donald Trump suggested that in the recent wave of anti-Semitic threats and attacks, “sometimes it’s the reverse,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told Buzzfeed News.
“He just said, ‘Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,’ and he used the word ‘reverse’ I would say two to three times in his comments,” Shapiro said, noting that Trump had called these acts “reprehensible.”
“I really don’t know what he means, or why he said that,” Shapiro said, adding, “It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt issued a statement saying, “We are astonished by what the President reportedly said. It is incumbent upon the White House to immediately clarify these remarks. In light of the ongoing attacks on the Jewish community, it is also incumbent upon the President to lay out in his speech tonight his plans for what the federal government will do to address this rash of anti-Semitic incidents.”
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said in response: “That is an absurd and obscene statement.”
A White House spokesperson responded to a NY Daily News email inquiry saying, “This is not what he said or meant. He […] was referring to protesters.”
The faux pas with the attorneys general might explain why the president chose to open his address to the joint houses of Congress with the statement: “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said at the beginning of his address.