White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday danced around questions from reporters about whether President Donald Trump believes Democrats “hate Jewish people,” as he reportedly said during a speech to Republican donors Friday.
Sanders, during the White House’s first formal press briefing in 42 days, refused to give a yes or no answer to the question when asked by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and then again by NBC News’ Hallie Jackson.
“Does he really believe Democrats hate Jews?” Jackson asked one final time when Sanders opted to repeatedly attack Democrats instead of answer the question.
“I think that’s a question you ought to ask the Democrats,” Sanders responded, prompting confusion and mockery on Twitter.
Axios reported Sunday that Trump made several eyebrow-raising comments during a speech Friday to Republican National Committee donors at Mar-a-Lago, his golf club and resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
One such remark reportedly referred to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) and the controversy surrounding her criticism of the pro-Israel lobby. Republican lawmakers have largely called her statements “anti-Semitic,” while Democrats’ reactions have been mixed.
“The Democrats hate Jewish people,” Trump said, adding that he didn’t know how any Jew could vote for a Democrat these days, Axios reported.
Earlier Friday, Trump told reporters on the White House lawn that “Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party, and that’s too bad.”
But numbers suggest otherwise. Thirty-two of the 34 Jewish members of Congress are Democrats, The Washington Post reported. More than 70 percent of Jewish Americans voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to Pew Research Center.
In response to Omar’s controversial Israel comments, Democrats drafted a resolution condemning bigotry and “hateful expressions of intolerance.” The Democratic-majority House passed it 407-23. All of the 23 no votes were cast by Republicans.
Sanders on Monday said Democrats should call out bigotry “by name” instead of passing a “watered-down” resolution. Karl, of ABC News, pointed out that Trump has never personally condemned Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has a long history of parroting white supremacist talking points and making bigoted comments.
Most recently, King was stripped of his House committee assignments following comments he made about white supremacy to The New York Times.
“I speak on behalf of the president on a number of topics,” Sanders told Karl. “I’ve talked about that a number of times and I refer you back to those comments where I use words like ‘abhorrent’ and ‘unacceptable.’”
Sanders’ head-scratching suggestion to Jackson during the press briefing Monday sparked a slew of responses on Twitter, including some that called out Trump’s own record of turning the other cheek on anti-Semitism.