White House chief of staff Reince Priebus defended on Sunday President Donald Trump’s failure to mention Jews in a statement commemorating the millions exterminated by the Nazis by arguing that it was about “everyone’s suffering.”
Chuck Todd pressed Priebus for answers during an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“Mr. Priebus, do you understand why many Jews were offended by the White House’s decision not to note that the Holocaust was about eradicating the Jews?” he asked.
“Well, I recognize in fact obviously that that was what the Holocaust was about, and it’s a horrible event, and obviously a miserable time in history that we remember here at the White House and certainly will never forget the Jewish people that suffered in World War II and obviously still incredible wounds that remain and a time in history that was of great incredible horrific magnitude and everyone’s heart here is impacted by the memory of that terrible time,” Priebus said. “And so, for the record, that’s the case and certainly we don’t mean any ill will to anybody.”
“Do you regret, does the President regret not—do you regret the statement?” Todd asked.
“I don’t know about regret. No, there’s no—” Priebus began.
“There’s no regret, not acknowledging the pain that—” Todd interjected.
“We acknowledge it,” Priebus said.
“But you didn’t,” Todd pressed.
“We acknowledge the horrible time of the Holocaust and what it meant for history, and so—” Priebus said, before Todd interrupted again.
“But why whitewash Jews from that statement?” he asked.
“I’m not whitewashing anything, Chuck,” Priebus said.
“The statement did,” Todd replied.
“I just told you that it was horrible and I’m telling you now that that’s the way we feel about it, and it’s a terrible time in history,” Priebus said. “And obviously I think you know that President Trump has dear family members that are Jewish, and there was no harm or ill will or offense intended by any of that.”
“But you don’t regret the statement,” Todd said. “You don’t regret the words that were chosen in the statement and the words that were not included.”
“I don’t regret the words, Chuck. I’m trying to clear it up for you,” Priebus said. “I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust, including obviously all of the Jewish people affected, and the miserable genocide that occurred is something that we consider extraordinarily sad and something that can never be forgotten and something that, if we could wipe it off the history books we could, but we can’t and it’s terrible. I mean, I don’t know what more to tell you.”
In a statement released Friday, Trump did not explicitly mention the 6 million Jews killed in concentration camps and cities throughout Europe.
Administration spokeswoman Hope Hicks said that the statement did not specifically mention Jews because “despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” as quoted in a CNN report published Saturday.
President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama both specifically condemned anti-Semitism in their statements on International Holocaust Memorial Day.
Watch the entire exchange below: