Is Trump’s Sleepy Eyes Jibe At Chuck Todd Anti-Semitic? by the Forward

Is Trump’s Sleepy Eyes Jibe At Chuck Todd Anti-Semitic?

Is “sleepy eyes” Donald Trump’s latest anti-Semitic dog whistle to the white supremacists and neo-Nazis? That’s what the Washington Post is asking in a column after Trump tweeted the insult of Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Monday.

Trump is a famous user of belittling nicknames and monikers for rivals and media figures he criticize him. During the Republican presidential primary, he called Senator Ted Cruz “Lyin Ted” and called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”

Trump has been calling Todd “sleepy eyes” since 2012, and has used the phrase both in public appearances as well as on Twitter. But on Monday, after Trump used it in criticizing Todd over a broadcast about North Korea some Twitter users pointed out that the nickname may be anti-Semitic.


The stereotype of Jews having sleepy eyes goes back to Nazi politician Julius Streicher, who used the trait in a children’s book about how to identify Jews. Now, websites that have pages devoted to identifying Jews often mention the trait, along with bushy eyebrows and a hooked nose.

Todd is Jewish, though it’s not clear if Trump is aware of the anti-Semitic history of the phrase.

“I doubt that Trump knows what he’s talking about. [‘Sleepy eyes’] was hardly a major feature of Nazi propaganda. It was not something that every German had to know,” Peter Kenez, a professor emeritus of the University of California-Santa Cruz and Holocaust survivor, told the Post. “I think it is too obscure. Our president has to have it to think up an adjective for everyone that he says something bad about. I suppose nothing else came to him.”

Contact Ari Feldman at feldman@forward.com or on Twitter @aefeldman

Author

Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. He covers Jewish religious organizations, synagogue life, anti-Semitism and the Orthodox world. If you have any tips, you can email him at feldman@forward.com. Follow him on Twitter @aefeldman.

Is Trump’s Sleepy Eyes Jibe At Chuck Todd Anti-Semitic?

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Is Trump’s Sleepy Eyes Jibe At Chuck Todd Anti-Semitic?

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close