WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump said he rejects white supremacism and anti-Semitism, but did not say how he would counter the phenomena and angrily rejected claims that his rhetoric spurs division.
Reporters peppered Trump with questions about a range of issues in a free-wheeling press conference on Wednesday after Trump’s Republican Party lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives but made gains in the Senate.
A number of reporters asked Trump about the dangers of right-wing extremism, especially in light of the massacre last month in Pittsburgh, when a gunman killed 11 Jews at a synagogue complex, the worst attack on Jews in U.S. history.
“It’s very sad, I hate to see it,” he said of anti-Semitism, and then he noted the praise he earned from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
“Many presidents have said they will build the embassy in Jerusalem, never happened, but it happened with me,” he said.
Pressed by the reporter on divisiveness and anti-Semitism in America, Trump said that the continued success of the American economy would help, and argued that he was closing the trade gap with China.
Another reporter asked whether Trump would restore funding for monitoring the extreme right that his Department of Homeland Security had cut. “I believe all hate is a problem, I do believe it’s a problem and it’s a problem we’re going to solve,” he said. Pressed for specifics, he said, “It’s a problem I don’t like a little bit.”
Trump lashed out at reporters who asked him whether his rhetoric was encouraging white nationalists, telling one that she herself was a racist for asking the question.
“That’s such a racist question,” he told Yamiche Alcindor, an African American reporter for PBS who had asked him whether his recent embrace of “nationalism” was a signal to white supremacists. “What you just said is so insulting to me.”