In a debate described as the “ugliest ever,” and marked by outright hostility between the candidates, trained ears also noticed an influx in Jewish namedropping by Donald Trump that could evoke anti-Semitic sentiments among some of his followers.
Trump has been accused in the past of using dog whistles aimed at supporters from the “alt-right,” known for their embrace of racism, white nationalism and Jew hatred.
Trump did not overtly target Jews, but the repeated mentions of Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton adviser and close family friend and other distinctively Jewish names ensured that Trump’s debate rhetoric would later resonate in “alt-right” online chats and social media platforms.
Here are some of the most Jewish dog whistles that stood out in Trump’s responses:
Trump has name-checked Sidney Blumenthal, Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, and Goldman Sachs. #debates— Liam Hoare (@lahoare) October 10, 2016
1. Trump mentioned mentioned Sidney Blumenthal twice.
Blumenthal was an aide to President Bill Clinton who became a Republican talking point among those who accused Clinton of mishandling the attacks on the United States government facilities in Benghazi, Libya. They said she corresponded with Blumenthal more than with the ambassador who was killed in the attacks, J. Christopher Stevens. He is not a household name, but “Blumenthal” is widely recognizable as Jewish.
“She said she was awake at 3:00 in the morning and she also sent a tweet out at 3:00 in the morning,” Trump said, when asked about why he was tweeting in the middle of the night about the former Miss Universe he called “Miss Housekeeping” because she is Latino. “She said she’ll be awake. Guess what happened. Ambassador Stevens sent 600 requests for help. And the only one she talked to was Sidney Blumenthal who is her friend and not a good guy by the way. So you know, she shouldn’t be talking about that.”
2. Who’s afraid of Jonathan Gruber?
Similarly, Trump mentioned an obscure but readily identifiable Jewish name when he talked about Jonathan Gruber, the economist who helped design health reform in Massachusetts under then-Governor Mitt Romney, and the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Trump called him “the architect of Obamacare.”
3. Meet George Soros, and other friends of Hill.
When Clinton tried to remind the debate audience and viewers that Trump, unlike most Americans, seems to have avoided paying personal income tax, perhaps for decades, he answered that Clinton herself has many “friends” who do the same. Chief among those friends, according to Trump, is George Soros, the billionaire and patron of liberal political causes who as a child survived the Nazi invasion of his native Budapest in hiding. Trump mentioned him two times as well.
“Many of her friends took bigger deductions, Warren Buffett took a massive deduction, Soros took a massive deduction,” he said.
Trump: “Yes, I haven’t paid any income taxes. But Hillary Clinton has … (((friends))).”— Patrick Blanchfield (@PatBlanchfield) October 10, 2016
4. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: Look what happened to her!
Trump mentioned Wasserman-Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, during the first debate as well, when he chortled, “Look what happened to her!” Wasserman-Schultz was felled by revelations that the DNC may have favored Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary contest. This go-round, as with Blumenthal, Gruber and Soros, Trump sought to intensify Clinton’s association with seemingly sneaky, underhanded Jews:
“Unlike the Bernie Sanders race, where you won, but not fair and square, in my opinion. All you have to do is take a look at WikiLeaks and see what they say about Sanders and see what Wasserman-Schultz had in mind.”
“I want to represent all Americans — the shifty Jew, the lusty Mexican, the rhythmic, rhythmic, magical blacks.” — Trump #debates— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) October 10, 2016
Helen Chernikoff is the Forward’s News Editor. She came to the Forward from The Jewish Week, where she served as the first web director and created both a blog dedicated to disability issues and a food and wine website. Before that, she covered the housing, lodging and logistics industries for Reuters, where she could sit at her desk and watch her stories move the stock market. Helen has a Master’s of Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA in History and French from Amherst College. She is also a rabbinical school dropout. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @thesimplechild.