While a tussle between a haredi journalist and President Donald Trump at the president’s first full question and answer session with the press since the inauguration drew criticism from establishment Jewish organizations and Jewish Democratic lawmakers, the man at the center of the controversy says such efforts to smear Trump are utterly fallacious.
Jake Turx, a correspondent for the Ami magazine, questioned the president regarding the recent rise in anti-Semitism at Thursday’s press conference, citing a spate of bomb threats against Jewish institutions.
Midway through the question, however, Trump shut down Turx, calling the query “not a simple question, not a fair question.”
Establishment Jewish leaders and Jewish Democrats pounced on the president’s response.
ADL national director Jonathan Greenblatt called Trump’s response “mind-boggling”, while American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris accused the president of trying to “besmirch the journalist”.
Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) also slammed the president over the incident.
"What is truly unfair and deeply disturbing is the Trump Administration’s deafening silence at the continued rise of anti-Semitic incidents across the country, leaving Jewish families fearful for their safety," said Lowey in a statement.
Yet Turx himself says the president is justified in being defensive over the issue, noting that mainstream media outlets have use accusations of anti-Semitism to hit Trump and his advisors despite his close ties with the Orthodox Jewish community.
"I've worked with the president and his people throughout the campaign, throughout the transition, and so many times I've see some of our colleagues in the media describe certain events as - in the way it relates to the Jewish community - in a certain light that no one in our community saw it that way,” Turx told Fox News.
Turx added that accusations of anti-Semitism were often levelled against Trump and his campaign by people outside of the Jewish community, apparently for political purposes.
“And there were certain acts described as anti-Semitic or certain people who were described as anti-Semitic. And the people in our community who know these people personally said 'That's not true, why are people who are not Jewish deciding what is considered anti-Semitism?' The president's relationship with the Jewish community... he's done unprecedented outreach with the Orthodox Jewish community. So we understand why this is so hurtful to see himself being called an anti-Semite.
"It is very unfair what has been done to him, and I understand why he is so defensive. And I am with him when it comes to being outraged about him being charged with this anti-Semitism.
"I was actually very hopeful because it shows someone - a president - who is so committed against this problem of anti-Semitism that it bothers him on a personal level, on a deep personal level. And it makes me very hopeful that he will work together with the community."