By Jordan Fabian - 02-21-17 09:54 AM EST
President Trump denounced anti-Semitism Tuesday after coming under pressure to address an uptick in incidents targeting Jewish institutions across the U.S.
"Anti-Semitism is horrible and it's going to stop and it has to stop," Trump told MSNBC during a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The president insisted he has spoken out against anti-Semitism "whenever I get a chance," even though he has refused to confront the issue directly on multiple occasions.
Trump on denouncing anti-Semitic attacks: "I do it wherever I get a chance." https://t.co/uJSL7I6CAS- Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 21, 2017
The comments come one day after a wave of bomb threats caused 11 Jewish community centers to temporarily close. The terrorizing phone calls have targeted 54 community centers in 27 states this year alone. Federal investigators are looking into the source of the threats.
Vandals also toppled dozens of headstones on Monday at a historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
Jewish groups have been frustrated by what they say is Trump's lackluster response to the incidents.
During a joint news conference last Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump responded to a question about anti-Semitism by citing the size of his Electoral College victory and referencing his Jewish son-in-law, White House aide Jared Kushner, and his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism when she married Kushner.
Trump said only that he would "stop long-simmering racism" but did not specifically refer to anti-Semitism.
Trump responded to a Jewish reporter the next day who asked him a question about the incidents by telling him to "sit down" and accusing the reporter of misleading him.
The president insisted he is "the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life."
Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called Trump's response "mind-boggling" and "shocking."
"The issue of anti-Semitism is not a political one," he wrote last week in The Washington Post. "But it is potentially lethal. With the president's leadership, it can get better. With his neglect or instigation, it can get worse."
The White House also stirred controversy in January by releasing a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that didn't mention the Nazis' focus on exterminating Jews. Top Trump officials later defended the decision.
Trump's team has begun to address the problem in recent days.
Ivanka Trump on Monday called for "religious tolerance" after Jewish community centers received the phoned-in bomb threats.
"Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country that was founded on the promise of individual freedom," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told NBC News on Monday.
- Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) February 20, 2017