Just when you thought the news in the age of Trump couldn’t get any crazier, a report has surfaced that the president used his favorite candy to make a point to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the contentious G7 summit meeting.
Trump reportedly slammed two pieces of Starburst candy on the table after the German leader irked him during tense negotiations over the joint statement at the end of the meeting.
WATCH: @IanBremmer describes exchange between Chancellor Merkel and Pres. Trump at #G7 summit: “He stood up, he put his hand in his pocket… and he took two Starbursts candies out, threw them on the table and said to Merkel, ‘Here, Angela. Don’t say I never give you anything.’” pic.twitter.com/LfTWerxsNK— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) June 20, 2018
“‘Here, Angela. Don’t say I never give you anything,’” Trump snapped at Merkel, before tossing the candy on the table and stalking off.
Trump initially agreed to sign the communique but later refused after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized U.S. trade policies at a press conference.
So what’s Jewish about all this? Starbust, that’s what. Here’s how the Forward covered the Semitic story behind Trump’s fave candy.
Would a Starburst candy taste as sweet to President Donald Trump if he knew that it was invented in England by a Jewish Holocaust refugee from Austria?
According to a recent story in the Washington Post, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been cultivating the good graces of his party’s right-wing leader by providing him with a steady supply of the square-shaped candy fruit chews called Starburst. McCarthy has even gone so far as to have a White House staffer pick out the red and pink ones – the president’s favorite flavors — and to make sure that his name is taped to the side of the jar, so that Donald “I am not a racist” Trump knows the name of the dealer providing him with the artificially colored and flavored sweet treat, whose top two ingredients are corn syrup and sugar, making them totally appropriate for Trump’s junk-food diet.
Starburst candies, now manufactured by the Wrigley Company, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc., were born in the United Kingdom in 1960, when a copywriter at the London ad agency Masius Wynne-Williams won a contest to name a new chewy fruit-flavored candy. Peter Phillips won £5 from the agency’s head of copy for coming up with the name “Opal Fruits,” which became a huge bestseller in England and Europe.
Opal Fruits were first introduced into the U.S. market in 1967 as M&M’s Fruit Chewies. It wasn’t until they were renamed Starburst a few years later that they took off, becoming a favorite of children (and, eventually, a president with the palate of a toddler) years before the Gummy Bear craze that they anticipated. Eventually Opal Fruits were renamed Starburst in the UK, in an effort to globalize the brand. An outcry ensued, and Opal Fruits were brought back for a limited time.
Interestingly, in England, Starburst candies are vegan and therefore presumably kosher. In the U.S., they contain animal gelatin, rendering them most definitely not.
As for the man who came up with the name Opal Fruits, Peter Phillips was born Peter Pfeffer in Vienna in 1936. At age three, he and his parents fled Austria after his father, a doctor, had been tipped off by a patient that he was on a list of those slated for transport to the Dachau concentration camp. As Peter Phillips in England, Pfeffer went on to enjoy professional success. He went to law school at Oxford University, after which he became an advertising copywriter and creative director.
Phillips also became an outspoken critic of the Austrian General Settlement Fund, set up to compensate Holocaust survivors for property that was expropriated by the Nazis. At only $210 million, the fund was wholly inadequate to repay what was owed, and Phillips told The Guardian that the agreement was “bloody awful.” Phillips himself received only 13 percent of his $86,000 claim, according to London’s Jewish Chronicle.
Perhaps every burst of flavor of an Opal Fruit candy and its Starburst successor is soured by the knowledge that had things been only slightly different — for example, had England closed its doors to refugees from the European continent — the man who named it likely would have died as a child in Dachau.
Swallow that, Mr. President.
Seth Rogovoy is a contributing editor at the Forward.