President Donald Trump spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Days of Remembrance Tuesday at the United States Capitol.
“I am deeply moved to stand beside people who survived history’s darkest hour. Your cherished presence transforms this place into a sacred gathering,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks.
He added, “The state of Israel is an eternal monument to the undying strength of the Jewish people. The fervent dream that burned in the hearts of the oppressed is now filled with the breath of life, and the Star of David waves atop a great nation arisen from the desert.”
Trump, whose administration has been plagued with accusations of anti-Semitism, has shown he is particularly sensitive to those charges.
Asked about the rise of anti-Semitism since his election, Trump told a Jewish reporter to “sit down” during a news conference in February before defending himself as “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
“I hate the charge. I find it repulsive,” Trump said. “I hate even the question because people that know me — and you heard the Prime Minister, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu, did you hear him, Bibi?”
Bomb threats have been on the rise in the United States and Canada since January, a fact some Jewish groups attribute to Trump’s campaign and presidency.
Those accusations were not helped when White House press secretary Sean Spicer was forced to apologize earlier this month after he incorrectly said Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II and seemingly called concentration camps “Holocaust centers.”
The comments, which led to a quick apology from the press secretary, were decried by Jewish groups: The Anti-Defamation League asked Spicer and the White House to take a course on Holocaust in response.
“I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week, using chemical weapons and gas. Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison,” Spicer said. “And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
The United State Holocaust Museum, the group hosting Tuesday’s event, quickly responded to Spicer’s comment with a tweet the highlighted footage taken from liberated concentration camps.
The museum will also unveil a new research center during Trump’s appearance, a forum that will include details records and artifacts donated by Jews who were persecuted by Hitler during the Holocaust.
Charges of anti-Semitism have followed Trump since the 2016 campaign, when some of his top aides — including strategist Steve Bannon — were accused of making anti-Jewish comments and the campaign was criticized for being slow to reject support from David Duke, an anti-semitic politician and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump, despite his initial bristling at charges of anti-Semitism, has begun to speak out about the issue. In a video for a World Jewish Congress event on Sunday, Trump said the “mind cannot fathom the pain, the horror, and the loss” of the Holocaust.
“We must stamp out prejudice and anti-Semitism everywhere it is found,” he said. “We must defeat terrorism, and we must not ignore the threats of a regime that talks openly of Israel’s destruction. We cannot let that ever even be thought of.”