President Donald Trump’s chief of staff on Sunday defended the White House’s omission of a reference to Jews in its statement commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.
The White House faced criticism on Friday after it neglected to explicitly mention Jews in Friday’s statement about the Holocaust, breaking a usual pattern of acknowledging the 6 million Jews who were killed during the atrocities of World War II.
During an interview on “Meet The Press” on Sunday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus denied there was “harm or ill-will or offense intended by any of that.” But he said he does not “regret the words” of the statement.
“Obviously that that was what the Holocaust was about. And it’s a horrible event. And obviously a miserable time in history that we remember here at the White House and certainly will never forget the Jewish people that suffered in World War II,” Priebus said.
Priebus pointed to Trump having “dear family members that are Jewish,” a reference to top adviser Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and Kushner’s wife.
“I’m trying to clear it up for you. I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust, including obviously all of the Jewish people affected and the miserable genocide that occurred is something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad and something that can never be forgotten and something that if we could wipe it off of the history books we could. But we can’t. And it’s terrible,” Priebus said.
Some prominent Democrats were quick to condemn Priebus.
Appearing later on “Meet The Press,” Sen. Tim Kaine, the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee, suggested the statement was part of a broader pattern of insensitivity towards Jews perpetuated by top figures in the Trump administration. He pointed to chief White House strategist Steve Bannon’s stewardship of Breitbart, which has attracted an anti-Semitic audience.
“When you have the chief political adviser in the White House, Steve Bannon, who is connected with a news organization that traffics in white supremacy and anti-Semitism and they put out a Holocaust statement that omits any mention of Jews,” Kaine said.
He continued: “The final solution was about the slaughter of Jews. We have to remember this. This is what Holocaust denial is. It’s either to deny that it happened or many Holocaust deniers acknowledge, ‘Oh yeah people were killed. But it was a lot of innocent people. Jews weren’t targeted.’ The fact that they did that and imposed this religious test against Muslims in the executive orders on the same day, this is not a coincidence.”