White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. SHAWN THEW / EPA
SHAWN THEW / EPA

How does the White House screw up Holocaust Remembrance Day?

White House officials in every administration have to tackle incredibly difficult tasks every day, and it’s easy for even the most competent of teams to make mistakes. But issuing a statement honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day seems like it should be one of the easiest things a White House has to do.

Somehow, Donald Trump and his team managed to screw this up spectacularly.

It started with an official statement on Friday that looked like a careless error: the White House recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day, but made no reference to the Holocaust’s Jewish victims. A day later, instead of saying this was a misstep they’ll correct, members of Trump World said this was intentional: in order to be “inclusive,” a White House spokesperson said, the Trump administration decided to omit references to Jews in their statement.

On the Sunday shows, members of Team Trump again said they had no regrets. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer thought it’d be wise to keep this story alive for a fourth consecutive day. The Washington Post reported:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer fired back at critics who he argued are “nitpicking” President Trump’s statement on the Holocaust by highlighting the White House’s omission of any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.

“Well I think he’s aware of what people have been saying, but I think by and large he’s been praised for it,” Spicer told reporters at the White House’s daily briefing on Monday.
To date, the White House hasn’t pointed to anyone who’s “praised” its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.

Spicer added yesterday that Trump “went out of his way” to recognize the Holocaust, which is one of the strangest sentences I’ve heard uttered from the briefing room podium, especially since Trump didn’t actually do anything other than allow his staff to write and issue a controversial statement.

As for Spicer’s complaints about “nitpicking,” let’s also not forget that the criticisms of the president’s statement aren’t limited to the White House’s critics on the left: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) expressed concerns about Trump’s statement, as have several conservative Jewish groups.

Following the press secretary’s briefing, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement of its own, acknowledging the facts the White House’s statement omitted.
“The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Nazi ideology cast the world as a racial struggle, and the singular focus on the total destruction of every Jewish person was at its racist core. Millions of other innocent civilians were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, but the elimination of Jews was central to Nazi policy. As Elie Wiesel said, ‘Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.’

“The Holocaust teaches us profound truths about human societies and our capacity for evil. An accurate understanding of this history is critical if we are to learn its lessons and honor its victims.”
Yes, on its 11th day in office, the Trump White House found itself in a dispute with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

These routine statements, honoring all kinds of events, holidays, and anniversaries, are supposed to be perfunctory and largely overlooked by the public at large. The fact that the White House’s communications office has managed to turn this into a four-day controversy, prompting bipartisan criticisms, is simply amazing, even by this administration’s standards.

Team Trump could’ve said on Friday, “This was an innocent oversight. We’re short staffed, but we’ll get it right next year.” But that’s not the path they chose. It’s genuinely difficult to screw up Holocaust Remembrance Day, but somehow, this White House found a way.

I’d love to know why.


Donald Trump and White House

How does the White House screw up Holocaust Remembrance Day?