WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump reportedly said that a wave of threats against Jewish communal institutions may be a false flag.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish and a Democrat, described a meeting of state attorney generals and Trump on Tuesday to BuzzFeed.
Trump called the wave of bomb threats in recent weeks forcing the evacuation of nearly 100 Jewish community centers and other institutions countrywide as “reprehensible,” Shapiro said, but added: “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people – or to make others – look bad.”
Shapiro said Trump said it was “the reverse” two or three times but did not clarify what he meant.
Earlier the same day Anthony Scaramucci, a top adviser to the Trump transition team who is under consideration for a White House job, advanced a similar argument on Twitter, saying the threats may be aimed at harming Trump.
“It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are,” Scaramucci said. “Don’t forget @TheDemocrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies.”
There were several incidents of violence at Trump campaign rallies during last year’s election, but no evidence linking the offenders to an organized Democratic Party effort.
It’s not the first time Trump has said that the spike in anti-Semitic incidents could be a bid to smear him. He did so in a now notorious Feb. 16 news conference, when he shouted down a reporter who asked him about what he planned to do to address the intensification of incidents.
“Some of that anger is caused by people on the other side,” he then told another reporter at the news conference. “It will be by people on the other side to anger people like you.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said he was “astonished” by what Trump said and called on the president to outline his plans to combat anti-Semitism in a speech scheduled Tuesday evening for a joint meeting of Congress.
“It is incumbent upon the White House to immediately clarify these remarks,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “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.”
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance and former director of the National Jewish Democratic Council , called the reported remarks by Trump and Scaramucci’s tweet “outrageous and irresponsible.”
“Taken together, the remarks by Trump and Scaramucci represent an utter failure to comprehend the recent surge in violent rhetoric and attacks directed at Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities. The uptick began during Trump’s campaign and has continued unabated.
“The President should be offering words of comfort to terrorized children instead of trying to smear political opponents with innuendo,” added Moline.