President Trump and members of Congress on Sunday voiced outrage at the knife attack that injured five people at the home of a Hasidic rabbi in New York state, calling for unity in condemning anti-Semitism — even as some Democrats urgently pressed Trump to take a stronger public stand on the issue.
Congressional leaders, rank-and-file members of both parties and most of the Democratic presidential contenders steered clear of politics as they tweeted statements Sunday morning and afternoon denouncing the stabbing in Monsey, N.Y. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was “deeply disturbed” by the attack and called for Americans to “condemn and confront anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry and hate wherever & whenever we see them.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described the stabbing as “another terrible reminder that the fight against hate and bigotry, especially anti-Semitism, is far from finished, even right here at home.”
Officials have not yet announced a motive in the stabbing, although New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and other leaders swiftly denounced it as domestic terrorism. The suspect in custody, 37-year-old Grafton E. Thomas, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary, according to police.
In an afternoon tweet, Trump denounced the attack and called on the country to unite in battling anti-Semitism.
“The anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, New York, on the 7th night of Hanukkah last night is horrific,” he said. “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism. Melania and I wish the victims a quick and full recovery.”
White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, sent a tweet Sunday morning describing the Monsey stabbing as “an act of pure evil.” Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism before marrying her Jewish husband, Jared Kushner.
But some House Democrats singled out the president for criticism, arguing that he has been insufficiently clear in denouncing anti-Semitism and has frequently perpetuated offensive stereotypes about Jewish people.
Earlier this month, Trump prompted an outcry from Jewish groups after he delivered a speech in which he sought to convince a Jewish audience that they had “no choice” but to vote for him or else they would lose money to Democratic presidential contenders’ wealth tax plans. He also said some Jews “don’t love Israel enough,” echoing a previous statement in which he questioned the loyalty of Jews who vote for Democrats.
Trump’s defenders have pointed to his record on Israel as well as recent moves such as his signing of an executive order this month directing the federal government to penalize universities that allow anti-Semitism on campus.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat who has been among Trump’s most vocal critics in the House, on Sunday shared an op-ed he wrote this month in the Forward, a New York-based newspaper written for a Jewish audience. Swalwell took direct aim at Trump in the piece, which was titled, “We Must Hold Trump Accountable for Embracing Anti-Semitism.”
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise in America,” the congressman said Sunday on Twitter. “And it’s being stoked by @realDonaldTrump who won’t condemn it and Trump’s lawyer, @RudyGiuliani, who just this week said he’s ‘more Jewish than Soros.’ ”
Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is Roman Catholic, claimed in an interview last week that he is “more of a Jew” than Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros, who survived the Holocaust and has long been the subject of conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the media.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), another frequent critic of Trump, shared a tweet by a New York-based comedian who argued that the Monsey attack followed “3 years of anti-semitism from the Trump Administration.”
“So sad but predictable. His conduct has made unacceptable conduct acceptable,” Cohen said, appearing to blame Trump in part for the recent rise in attacks against Jewish people and members of other minority groups across the country. “It will take decades to cure.”
Other Democrats did not mention Trump by name but called for all public officials to unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism.
“I am saddened and appalled at the recent anti-Semitic attacks in New York,” Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) said in a tweet. “All Americans of good will must stand together against hate crimes. And no government official should wink at or spread hate or conspiracy theories that fuel these attacks.”
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Democratic critiques.
Earlier Sunday, Trump directed his attention toward criticizing Pelosi and other Democrats over his impeachment by the House this month.
“Crazy Nancy Pelosi should spend more time in her decaying city and less time on the Impeachment Hoax!” Trump, who was spending the day at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla., said in a morning tweet. He shared a video tweeted by White House social media director Dan Scavino depicting San Francisco as a city torn apart by violence, homelessness and crime.
Most lawmakers and presidential candidates struck a bipartisan note Sunday as they condemned the Monsey attack.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) opened a town hall at a roller rink in Knoxville, Iowa, by denouncing the stabbing and describing the 2020 election as an opportunity “to send a very clear and unmistakable message that America has room for people of every race, of every religion, of every creed.”
“This is an opportunity that goes far beyond politics right now,” Buttigieg told the crowd in Knoxville, which sits in a county where voters backed Trump by almost 2 to 1 in 2016.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) similarly argued that a “quick and direct” response is needed in the wake of such violence to make clear that “attacks on people of faith are wrong.”
“Too often in Washington, you see people trying to figure out somebody’s motives instead of just saying, ‘It’s wrong,’ and attack it, call it out for what it is,” Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Anti-Semitism is wrong. We need to stand up against it. And it’s, unfortunately, starting to pop up all around the country, more and more.”