WASHINGTON (JTA) — Presidential senior adviser Stephen Miller said he was offended “as an American Jew” because Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likened migrant detention camps to concentration camps.
Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, made his remarks on “Fox News Sunday” while seeking to defend his boss from charges of racism.
He told host Chris Wallace the focus should not be on Trump, who started a political fire when he said four congresswomen of color should “go back” to unspecified countries, but on the remarks earlier this year by one of them, Ocasio-Cortez.
“As a Jew, as an American Jew, I am profoundly outraged by the comments from Ocasio-Cortez,” Miller said of the freshman lawmaker from New York. “It is a historical smear, it is a sinful comment, it minimizes the death of 6 million of my Jewish brothers and sisters, it minimizes their suffering, and it paints every patriotic law enforcement officer as a war criminal.”
Ocasio-Cortez has said she is not likening the detention camps to Nazi camps, but to the broader understanding of the term concentration camps as places of mass detention of civilians without trial. A number of Jewish groups have criticized her for the comparison, while others have defended it as accurate.
Trump has repeatedly accused the four congresswomen of anti-Semitism. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are often harsh critics of Israel, and Omar apologized for remarks that many took as invoking anti-Semitic tropes. A number of Jewish groups, including those that have criticized Omar and Tlaib, have said Trump’s invoking Jewish interests in defending his tweet is inappropriate.
Marianne Williamson, a self-help author who is Jewish and one of 25 Democrats seeking the presidential nomination, told CNN on Sunday that Trump’s accusations were out of line.
“I’m a Jew,” Williamson said. “No, I’m sorry Trump, you don’t get to pull that out as your defense.”
Wallace, who is also Jewish, pressed Miller hard on various remarks by Trump that have been labeled racist by critics.
“I’ve never called any of his tweets racist, but there’s no question that he is stoking racial divisions,” Wallace said.