President Trump on Monday joined Republicans blasting Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., for comments the Democratic congresswoman made about the Holocaust to Yahoo News’ podcast “Skullduggery.”
“Democrat Rep. Tlaib is being slammed for her horrible and highly insensitive statement on the Holocaust,” Trump tweeted. “She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. Can you imagine what would happen if I ever said what she said, and says?”
In her “Skullduggery” interview Friday, Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, called Trump “a crooked CEO.” In a different part of the interview, she discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role Palestinians played in helping provide a “safe haven” for Jews following the Holocaust.
“There’s a kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors — Palestinians — who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence, in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people’s passports,” Tlaib said. “And just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time. And I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them.”
Tlaib did not specify what her ancestors did to help Jewish refugees fleeing Europe during and after the Holocaust. The grand mufti of Jerusalem, the Islamic cleric overseeing the Muslim holy sites in the city, incited riots against Jews immigrating to Palestine and allied himself with Hitler during World War II. The Arab states surrounding Israel opposed its creation as a Jewish state in 1948 and launched a war against it.
Conservative critics quickly seized on Tlaib’s comments, interpreting them to imply that she approved of the Holocaust, something her spokesman said was not what she meant.
“Rashida Tlaib says thinking of the Holocaust provides her a ‘calming feeling,’ shockingly claims Palestinians created ‘safe haven’ for Jews,” read the headline in the Washington Examiner.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted a link to the Examiner story and called on House Democratic leadership to “take action” against Tlaib.
Surely now @SpeakerPelosi & @LeaderHoyer will finally take action against vile anti-Semitism in their ranks. This must cross the line, even for them. Rashida Tlaib says thinking of the Holocaust provides her a “calming feeling” https://t.co/opUUNEol2d— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) May 12, 2019
Tlaib’s spokesman, Denzel McCampbell, issued a statement accusing Cheney, Republican leaders and “right-wing extremists” of “spreading outright lies to incite hate.”
“Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself for using the tragedy of the Holocaust in a transparent attempt to score political points,” McCampbell wrote. “Her behavior cheapens our public discourse and is an insult to the Jewish community and the millions of Americans who stand opposed to the hatred being spread by Donald Trump’s Republican Party.”
McCampbell then attempted to clarify Tlaib’s remarks.
“Rep. Tlaib said thinking about this effort to provide a safe haven for people fleeing persecution brought calm to Rep. Tlaib because her ancestors were involved in helping those tragically impacted by the Holocaust. The Congresswoman did not in any way praise the Holocaust, nor did she say the Holocaust itself brought a calming feeling to her. In fact, she repeatedly called the Holocaust a tragedy and a horrific persecution of Jewish people.”
He added: “This behavior by a bankrupt Republican leadership is dangerous and only increases hateful rhetoric from those who want to cause harm to oppressed people.”
The attacks from Republicans on Tlaib are reminiscent of those against another freshman Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., over her criticism of Israel. Both Tlaib and Omar were the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Omar defended Tlaib in a tweet Monday.
You praised people at a neo-Nazi rally. We don't have to imagine.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 13, 2019
This is another transparent attempt to sow division b/t minority communities and distract from your own criminal behavior by smearing a Muslim woman.
No one should fall for it this time. https://t.co/y0ggJT83oF
Other Democrats came to Tlaib’s defense.
"If you read Rep. Tlaib's comments, it is clear that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are taking them out of context," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. "They must stop, and they owe her an apology."
"Obviously I don't think that she hates Israel or hates Jews," Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said on Fox News. "She's not a hateful person. She's not a bigoted person."
Tlaib herself responded in a tweet on Monday afternoon.
"It's more than just silencing a member of Congress," she tweeted. "They are using my faith & ethnic background to promote their hate agenda that leads to more violence. The GOP has no policy agenda, and continues to enable a lawless President who doesn't care about protecting our democracy."
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