Mar 18, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Jewish lawmakers rage at Trump's "revolting" comments

Former President Donald Trump, wearing a blue suit jacket, white shirt and red tie, standing in front of an American flag.

Former President Trump. Photo: Christian Monterrosa/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Former President Trump's comments on Monday that "any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion" was met with a swift and fierce backlash from incensed Jewish Democrats in Congress.

Why it matters: It's a sign of what's to come as the 2024 election heats up against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Trump has landed in hot water before for attacks on Jewish Democrats.

Driving the news: On the radio show of his right-wing former White House aide Seb Gorka, Trump criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for his harsh criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • "When you see those Palestinian marches ... guys like Schumer see that, and to him, it's votes," Trump said. "He's very anti-Israel now."
  • The former president continued, "Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion, they hate everything about Israel, and they should be ashamed of themselves."
  • Schumer, in a post on X, said: "To make Israel a partisan issue only hurts Israel and the US-Israeli relationship. Trump is making highly partisan and hateful rants."

What they're saying: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the House subcommittee that oversees Israel and the Middle East, told Axios the comments were "revolting, repugnant, and reprehensible."

  • "How dare Donald Trump lecture Chuck Schumer about being Jewish," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), calling the remarks an "outrageous slander against the vast majority of American Jews."
  • Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) called Trump a "truly hateful man who's trying everything in his power to get Americans to hate each other."
  • Trump "has no religion," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). "[He] never goes to church, certainly doesn't know anything about Matthew and the New Testament and less about Jews and their commitment to social justice and Israel."

Zoom in: Several of the most staunchly pro-Israel moderates also lambasted the former president.

  • "Trump demonstrates daily his lack of fitness for the presidency by spreading dangerous stereotypes and embracing antisemites," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
  • Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) said Trump's rhetoric is "particularly disgraceful and dangerous at a time when Jews are facing dangerous levels of antisemitism nationwide."

The other side: Trump's team doubled down on Monday, with spokesperson Karoline Leavitt saying in a statement that Trump "is right."

  • "The Biden Administration has given millions in aid to Gaza and the Iranian Regime, Democrats in Congress have signed petitions supporting Gaza terrorists and caved to the demands of Far-Left Palestinian extremists," she said.
  • "The Democrat Party has turned into a full-blown anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist cabal."

By the numbers: Democrats routinely win Jewish voters by wide margins, with Trump attracting just 30% of the Jewish vote in 2016 and 27% in 2020, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

  • Of the 33 Jewish members of Congress, just two are Republicans: Reps. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) and Max Miller (R-Ohio).
  • Spokespeople for Kustoff and Miller — a former Trump aide — did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump's remarks.

The bottom line: "Luckily I don't know any Jews who look to Donald Trump for advice on how to be Jewish," Raskin said.

  • "After all, this is the guy who saw 'very fine people on both sides' of an antisemitic riot and entertained the neo-Nazi Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes over at his house at Mar-a-Lago for dinner."
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