Saturday morning, Donald Trump tweeted out a graphic attacking Hillary Clinton as corrupt. That sounds like par for the course for him — except this one overlays a six-pointed star, which looks a lot like a Star of David, on a pile of money. Yes, I’m serious:
The idea that politicians are controlled by Jewish money is one of the defining tropes of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The apparent subtext of the graphic is that Hillary Clinton is corrupt, and that the source of the corruption is the Jews.
Did Trump intend to convey an anti-Semitic message with this graphic? I’m honestly not sure. On the one hand, his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism several years ago. She and her Jewish husband, Jared Kushner, reportedly wield some influence inside the Trump campaign, so you’d think they would steer him away from overt anti-Semitism. Indeed, about two hours after the first tweet, Trump sent out a new version of the graphic, which replaced the six-pointed star with a circle. He deleted the six-pointed star tweet about an hour later.
On the other hand, the campaign hasn't yet apologized. Trump has clearly and publicly demonstrated his own blind spot when it comes to anti-Semitism.
In December, he gave a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition that was filled with anti-Semitic stereotypes. A few examples of what he said:
- "Stupidly, you want to give money. ...You're not going to support me because I don't want your money."
- "I'm a negotiator, like you folks."
- "Is there anyone in this room who doesn't negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I've ever spoken."
It’s also been well documented that Trump has a vocal fan base among anti-Semites on the internet, particularly in the avowedly anti-Semitic "alt-right" subculture. "We haven’t seen this kind of kind of mainstreaming of intolerance at this level," Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a May interview with the Forward.
When journalist Julia Ioffe wrote a critical profile of Melania Trump in GQ, she was inundated with anti-Semitic invective, including photoshops of her face onto concentration camp inmates. When Melania was asked about it, she said that Ioffe "provoked" the backlash, adding, "I don’t control my fans."
The point, then, is that the Trump campaign has enjoyed vocal support from anti-Semites, and has done virtually nothing to warn them off. Trump himself has openly indulged in anti-Semitism, and never apologized.
So while it might not be possible to prove whether or not this graphic was intentionally anti-Semitic, it’s not clear how much that matters. It’s yet more evidence that Trump is entirely oblivious and indifferent to the anti-Semitism that his campaign is kicking up.
Update: After publication, Trump deleted the six-pointed star tweet. The piece has been updated to reflect that.