WASHINGTON — The White House said it intentionally left the murder of six million Jews out of its statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day because it was trying to be inclusive.
“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” White House director of strategic communications Hope Hicks told CNN on Saturday.
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror,” said the statement attributed to President Trump. “Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.”
“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good,” Trump added. “Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”
Statements from past administrations have recognized the six million murdered Jews and others killed by the Nazis. Vice President Joe Biden in 2015, for example, issued a statement “remembering the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the millions of Poles, Roma, LGBT people, and so many others whose lives were extinguished by the Nazi regime.”
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told NBC this morning that he recognizes the extermination of Jews is “what the Holocaust was about and it’s a horrible event.”
“And, obviously, a miserable time in history that we remember here at the White House. And certainly we’ll never forget the Jewish people that suffered in World War II, and obviously still incredible wounds that remain in a time in history that was of great, incredible, horrific magnitude. And everyone’s heart here is impacted by the memory of that terrible time,” Priebus said. “And so, for the record, that’s the case.”
Priebus said “certainly we don’t mean any ill will to anybody; I don’t know about regret… we acknowledge it, we acknowledge the horrible time of the Holocaust.”
He insisted the administration was “not whitewashing anything” by omitting any reference to Jews from the statement.
“I mean, everyone suffering in the Holocaust including, obviously, all of the Jewish people affected in the miserable genocide that occurred, is something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad and something that can never be forgotten and something that, if we could wipe it off of the history books, we could. But we can’t. And it’s terrible,” Priebus said, stressing again that the White House doesn’t “regret the words” used. “I mean, I don’t know what more to tell you.”
Also on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the White House was trying to “scrub” Jews from the Holocaust remembrance.
“President Obama, President Bush always talk about the Holocaust in connection with the slaughter of Jews. The final solution was about the slaughter of Jews. We have to remember this,” Kaine said. “This is what Holocaust denial is. It’s either to deny that it happened, or many Holocaust deniers acknowledge oh, yeah, people were killed but it was a lot of innocent people. Jews weren’t targeted.”
The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website praised the statement for defying “the science fiction Zionist folklore about ovens and gas chambers” and said Trump is “still exceeding expectations in pushing back against Jewish supremacy.”
Criticism of the White House statement included Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who called the omission of Jews “puzzling and troubling,” and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who noted the “very unnerving” statement also left out any mention of “the scourge of anti-Semitism that continues to exist today.”
The Zionist Organization of America, which has been supportive of Trump, issued a statement calling Priebus’ morning statements “disgraceful” and hoping that the president “will direct his staff and COS Reince Priebus to immediately rectify this painful omission.”
“Especially as a child of holocaust survivors, I and ZOA are compelled to express our chagrin and deep pain at President Trump, in his Holocaust Remembrance Day Message, omitting any mention of anti-Semitism and the six million Jews who were targeted and murdered by the German Nazi regime and others,” said ZOA president Morton A. Klein.