Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Make a gift today and you could win a trip to Portugal!

Jewish Leaders Concerned Trump Fuels Anti-Semitic Rhetoric


Donald Trump has been launching attacks lately on what he calls the global power structure of media and financial interests. Some Jewish leaders see overtones of anti-Semitism in that language. And they'd like Trump to drop it. As NPR's Tom Gjelten reports, their concern is that Trump's rhetoric resonates with white nationalists.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka married an Orthodox Jew, Jared Kushner, and converted. Their three children are Jewish. Kushner himself has been one of Trump's closest advisers. And yes, some of the language in Trump's speeches has made Jewish leaders nervous - most recently last week, when he accused Hillary Clinton of meeting in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.


DONALD TRUMP: ...In order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors.

GJELTEN: Not a word there about Jews - but some writers pointed out that the reference to international bankers undermining national sovereignty had parallels with classic anti-Semitic propaganda. The first objection came from the Anti-Defamation League, formed a century ago to combat anti-Semitism. Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism says it wasn't so much what Trump meant to say but what others may have taken from his words.

OREN SEGAL: We know that there are a subset of individuals in this country on the fringes who very much believe in these conspiratorial ideologies. So whether it's intended or not, it's a field day for those who are on the more extreme fringes of society.

GJELTEN: In fact, Trump's speech got an enthusiastic reception the next day from David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader now running for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana.


DAVID DUKE: Donald Trump had an incredible speech in West Palm Beach - maybe the strongest, most all-out speech concerning the war that's being waged by the oligarchs who control the international banks and the globalists. He called them out - the bankers, the globalists.

GJELTEN: On his radio show, Duke makes no secret of his feelings about Jews. He claims Clinton's top donors are all Jewish. The oligarchy controlling the news media is dominated by Jews, he says. And when Trump talks about the election being rigged, guess who gets the blame from Duke and his friends? Yesterday, Duke's guest on his radio show was Andrew Anglin, founder of the white supremacist website the Daily Stormer.


ANDREW ANGLIN: If by some Jewish trickery, we do not win this election, people are going to blame the Jews. You don't have to be a - have a computer brain to recognize the pattern here - that it's all Jews that are trying to stop Donald Trump - and that - especially when it comes to the, quote, unquote, "conservative Jews."

GJELTEN: A spokesman for Trump calls it preposterous to assert anti-Semitism of any kind on his part. There's been no greater friend to the Jewish people and to Israel than Mr. Trump, the spokesman says. Trump, he says, was talking in Florida about Clinton's speeches and meetings with banks that advocate for open borders.

In fact, David Duke and Andrew Anglin are fringe figures not taken seriously by anyone outside the far right. The question is whether they are feeling newly empowered in this campaign and whether their hatred will be fueled by Donald Trump's language in the coming days, whether he intends for that to happen or not. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.