NEW YORK (JTA) — Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s Jewish daughter and son-in-law, tried and failed to convince her father to moderate his comments on the white supremacist rally and subsequent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, The New York Times reported.
Citing unnamed sources, the Times reported Tuesday that the couple, vacationing in Vermont over the weekend, urged the president to reconsider a statement he made on Saturday in which he blamed “many sides” for the violence that erupted at the rally.
Early Sunday, Ivanka Trump herself tweeted a message that more explicitly denounced the far-right ideologies on display in Charlottesville.
“There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis,” she said. “We must all come together as Americans — and be one country UNITED. #Charlottesville.”
On Monday, President Trump appeared to heed their advice — “grudgingly,” the Times reported — by reading a statement saying that “racism is evil” and calling out neo-Nazis and white supremacists in specific terms.
On Tuesday, however, in extended unscripted remarks during a news conference in New York, Trump defended his prior assertion and said “there is blame on both sides” for the violence. He appeared to equate protesters on the far left and far right. A 32-year-old woman was killed Saturday in Charlottesville when a car driven by a white supremacist plowed into a group of counterprotesters.
Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Orthodox Jews who have contributed to Democratic causes in the past, have often been expected to be moderating forces on their volatile father, although critics suggest there is little evidence that they have either tried or succeeded.
Abraham Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Tuesday that the pair should seize the opportunity to counsel the president, whose remarks, Foxman said, served to “rationalize away Nazism, its hatred, its violence, and find excuses for it.”
“They need to sit down with him, and say to him, face-to-face, ‘Do you understand what message you’re sending to your grandchildren? That it’s okay for people to march down and yell get rid of the Jews, we don’t want the Jews. And you say this is nothing?'” Foxman told Jewish Insider. “People have said, ‘Well maybe Jared …’ Jared’s grandparents are Holocaust survivors. People say, ‘Well, maybe they were put there to be Esther or Mordechai.’ Well, maybe they have.”
Kushner’s grandmother, Rae Kushner, escaped from the Novogrudok ghetto in present-day Belarus; his grandfather Joseph Kushner also survived the Nazis. Esther and Mordechai are the Jewish heroes of the Purim story, who convinced a Persian king to cancel a genocide against his Jewish subjects.
Jewish Insider also quoted Norman Eisen, former ethics czar in the Obama White House, calling on Kushner and Ivanka Trump to refute the president’s narrative about Charlottesville.
“I know that every day that passes without them directly acting has the opposite effect,” Eisen said Wednesday. “It enables the ignorance and bigotry of the president. I wish I could tell you that I thought that they would speak out, but nothing we’ve seen from them so far suggests that they’re going to do anything to disagree publicly with Trump.”
The rally in Charlottesville included explicitly Nazi and anti-Semitic chants and signage. One of the leaders of the rally, Christopher Cantwell, who writes the white supremacist blog Radical Agenda, told Vice News Tonight that he was disappointed in Trump for having allowed his daughter to marry a Jew.
“I don’t think you could feel the way about race that I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl, OK?” said Cantwell.
Cantwell included a link to the interview on his own website.