"What universe are these people living in?" Anne Frank Center blasts Sean Spicer for complaints over anti-Semitism whitewash

After Sean Spicer says, "Nothing is good enough" for Anne Frank Center, its executive director responds fiercely

By Matthew Rozsa

Published February 22, 2017 3:23PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump's press secretary doesn't understand why the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, which is run by civil rights activist Steven Goldstein and based in New York, won't just accept his boss' belated denunciation of 2017's wave of anti-Semitic hate crimes.

It's "never good enough" for the Anne Frank Center, Spicer said during a White House press conference on Tuesday.  The president "has been very forceful with his denunciation of people who seek to attack people because of their hate, because of their religion, because of their gender, because of the color of their skin. And it’s something he’s going to continue to fight and make very, very clear that [it] has no place in this administration. But it’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this, it’s never good enough."

Goldstein was appalled at Spicer's comments.

"The audacity of Sean Spicer to demand from the podium that the Anne Frank Center salute this president for his pathetic attempts to recognize anti-Semitism," Goldstein told Salon. "The imagery is callous at best and constitutes dark prejudice at worst. What has become of our democracy, that a press secretary for the president — let alone the president himself — expects applause simply for saying that anti-Semitism exists? Next President Trump will announce that the United States has achieved the first landing of a person on the moon and also expect us to applaud. What universe are these people living in?"

Goldstein added: "He also said the president has repeatedly called out anti-Semitism. When? When? This weekend passed, including this Sunday, during which over a hundred graves were desecrated, and on Monday bomb threats were made to eleven Jewish community centers, and he remained silent. Then he read a statement with all the passion of a B-grade actor auditioning for a high school play. You looked at him and it didn't look like he could even connect to the words — and this is a president who rarely reads anything prepared — and the one chance he gets to speak about anti-Semitism, he needs notes!

Goldstein continued, "When will our nation get fed up with this president trotting out the religion of his daughter and his son-in-law as a talking point shield against the anti-Semitic conduct of his administration? So what if his daughter is Jewish and his son-in-law is Jewish? That's like saying some of our best daughters are Jewish. By this logic, his daughter is also a woman, but that doesn't mean he isn't a misogynist."

On Tuesday the Anne Frank Center released a statement denouncing Trump's response to the anti-Semitic string of attacks as inadequate: "The President’s sudden acknowledgment of Anti-Semitism is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration,” the center's release said. “His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Anti-Semitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have seen from any Administration."

The Frank center statement continued, "The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this president has turned a corner. This is not that moment."

This isn't the first time that Goldstein has let Trump have it with both barrels. Earlier this month he told Salon, "I’ve had it with the mealy mouthed establishment criticisms of Donald Trump. Instead of organizations saying, ‘We take issue with statements coming out of the White House insensitive to the Jewish community’ — really, now, who the hell speaks like that in real life— why not just tell it like it is? There’s anti-Semitism in the White House."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Anne Frank Center For Mutual Respect Anti-semitism Donald Trump Sean Spicer Steven Goldstein