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Trump’s White House grants access to a hate group

A media outlet that spreads anti-Semitism and outlandish conspiracy theories got press passes to cover Trump's trip to Davos
President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he arrives at the World Economic Forum, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, in Davos. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he arrives at the World Economic Forum, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, in Davos. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Why is Donald Trump’s White House providing press credentials to a website that disseminates blatantly antisemitic tropes?

It’s a question that should be answered now. It can’t be dismissed or ignored.

TruNews, a staunchly conservative website based in Florida that circulates outlandish conspiracy theories, was granted press passes for five of its employees to cover Trump’s recent trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The White House was surely aware that TruNews, founded in 1999 by a reactionary pastor named Rick Wiles, is a platform for undisguised antisemitism.

During a particularly notorious broadcast in November, Wiles accused American Jews of orchestrating Trump’s impeachment. “That’s the way Jews work,” he claimed. “They are deceivers. They plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda. This ‘impeach Trump movement’ is a Jew coup, and the American people better wake up to it really fast.”

During the course of his sickening lecture, Wiles also warned his listeners that “when Jews take over a country, they kill millions of Christians.”

This is the stuff of blood libel and incitement to racial violence, a filthy pack of lies drawing on traditional anti-Jewish rhetoric. As we know all to well, this kind of hatred has had real-life consequences. At a time of rising public antisemitism and murderous attacks against Jews in the United States, this sort of antisemitic talk is dangerous and should not be tolerated.

TruNews is acutely aware that its status has been burnished by having received press credentials from the White House. At a press conference in Davos, Edward Szall, one of its “reporters,” told Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Kushner, that TruNews was grateful. As he put it, “We want to thank President Trump and the White House for extending the invitation to be here. We are honored to be here.”

As The New York Times pointed out, this was not the first time that TruNews had gotten close to the Trumps. In 2018, Trump himself took a question from Szall in Manhattan. And last year, TruNews filmed an interview with his son, Donald Jr., following a rally in Michigan.

So what is going on here? Are the Trump’s coddling or legitimizing TruNews?

Trump, whose son-in-law Jared Kushner is Jewish, has a checkered track record when it comes to racists. He has condemned antisemitism in no uncertain terms, and he visited Pittsburgh after the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, which claimed the lives of 12 of its congregants.

But after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which neo-Nazis and white supremacists shouted “Jews will not replace us” in a torch-lit march reminiscent of Nazi Germany, Trump said he thought some “very fine people” could be found in the ranks of these antisemites.

Trump’s ridiculous comment was an open-and-shut case of moral equivocation, as was the White House’s blinkered decision to grant TruNews press credentials. People for the American Way, a progressive organization that monitors hate-mongering outfits like TruNew, got it right when its spokesperson said, “It is a validation of their work.”

It is beyond comprehension why the White House doesn’t grasp this elementary concept. Is the Trump administration defending the principle of free speech? Is it pandering to its arch-conservative base?

“It’s puzzling that a known hate group would get press credentials from the same White House that revoked the credentials of a correspondent for a major television network,” said Jonathan Karl, an ABC News correspondent and the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, in reference to Jim Acosta of CNN. “We have asked why this has happened and if the White House intends to issue press credentials to this group in the future. We have not received an on-the-record response.”

Two members of the U.S. Congress, Ted Deutch of Florida and Elaine Luria of Virginia, wrote a letter to the White House asking why TruNews has been allowed to attend presidential events, but they have not received a reply.

The White House’s silence is deafening.

If only for the sake of decency, the Trump administration should forthwith answer their questions.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com
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