Dear Mr. Kushner,
My name is Dana Schwartz and I’m an entertainment writer at the Observer, the paper owned by your publishing company. On July 2, as I’m sure you’re aware (and have probably been wringing your hands about for the last three days), your father-in-law Donald Trump tweeted out an image of Hillary Clinton in front of raining money with a six-sided star declaring she’s the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”
I responded to the meme, calling out its blatant anti-Semitic imagery because people can play ignorant, blame the corrupt liberal media for trying to “get” Trump, but it takes only a basic knowledge of world history or an understanding of how symbols work to see a wall of cash, a Star of David, and the accusation of corruption and not see the subtext.
But deny or play dumb as you might, when I tweeted out my response, my worst fears were realized: his message, whether purposeful or inadvertent, was met with cheers by those to whom that star’s message was certainly clear. Mr. Trump’s tweet was seen as a winking promise to this nation’s worst and most hateful individuals.
Here are just a tiny sample size of the responses I received:
A few hours later, Trump deleted the original image and re-tweeted it out, this time with the star crudely covered by a circle (the tips of the star still visible), and a new hashtag: #AmericaFirst. Forgive me if I condescend in any way or explain what you already know, but I’m sure you’ve been busy lately so just a quick refresher: America First was a movement led primarily by White supremacist Charles Lindbergh advocating against American intervention during World War II. The Anti-Defamation League has previously asked that Trump refrain from the slogan due to its overt anti-Semitic implications.
He and his campaign deny that the image—which had been found, previous to Trump’s tweet, on a white supremacist internet forum—has any Jewish implications at all. Instead of acknowledging the obvious, he and his campaign used it as an opportunity to undermine the free media in the style of the most dangerous regimes in history, and mock those like me, who had been getting strangers on the Internet telling her to put her head in the oven for the past day and a half.
Here are some of the excuses I’ve seen, both from Trump’s camp and Trump supporters:
- “It’s available on Microsoft shapes.” There are a lot of symbols you can make on Microsoft Word, and sometimes symbols SYMBOLIZE ideas, concepts, or groups. A cross for instance. I feel silly explaining this to you. This explanation is so inane that I feel so condescending refuting it to you, ostensibly my boss, that it feels insubordinate.
- “It’s a sheriff star.” Because users on the white supremacist forums where this image was found were no doubt implying Hillary is in the pocket of the sheriffs. You know, sheriffs. The group stereotypically associated with greed and money.
- “He didn’t make it; he’s too busy to pay attention to everything he tweets out.” This is not an excuse for racism. Trump’s twitter account is seen by millions of people, and he is responsible for the message he’s sending to his supporters. Besides, Trump is running for president. Making mistakes because he wasn’t “paying attention” isn’t an excuse that qualifies him for the highest office in the land in any way.
- “It was an accident.” Then where is the apology?
These explanations are so facile, infantile in their blatant disregard for context or logic that I can only imagine them being delivered by someone doing so while grinning and winking.
And then there’s the final explanation, the one most frequently cited by Trump’s most “reasonable” supporters on the Internet:
“Trump has a Jewish son-in-law, and granddaughter: he can’t be anti-Semitic.”
Mr. Kushner, I invite you to look through all of those images in the slideshow above, the vast majority sent in your father-in-law’s name. Right now, this hate is directed to one of your employees, but the message applies equally to your wife and daughter.
You went to Harvard, and hold two graduate degrees. Please do not condescend to me and pretend you don’t understand the imagery of a six-sided star when juxtaposed with money and accusations of financial dishonesty. I’m asking you, not as a “gotcha” journalist or as a liberal but as a human being: how do you allow this? Because, Mr. Kushner, you are allowing this. Your father-in-law’s repeated accidental winks to the white supremacist community is perhaps a savvy political strategy if the neo-Nazis are considered a sizable voting block—I confess, I haven’t done my research on that front. But when you stand silent and smiling in the background, his Jewish son-in-law, you’re giving his most hateful supporters tacit approval. Because maybe Donald Trump isn’t anti-Semitic. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think he is. But I know many of his supporters are, and they believe for whatever reason that Trump is the candidate for them.
I can’t abide another defensive blame-shift to the media or to “politically correct culture gone amok.” David Duke, outspoken and explicit white supremacist, anti-Semite, and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, saw the image your father-in-law tweeted out, and to him the message was quite clear to him. Those aren’t stereotypical “sheriff” hands in the corner.
The worst people in this country saw your father-in-law’s message and took it as they saw fit. And yet Donald Trump in his response chose not to condemn them, the anti-Semites who, by his argument were obviously misinterpreting the image, but the media.
And now, Mr. Kushner, I ask you: What are you going to do about this? Look at those tweets I got again, the ones calling me out for my Jewish last name, insulting my nose, evoking the holocaust, and tell me I’m being too sensitive. Read about the origins of that image and see the type of people it attracted like a flies to human waste and tell me this whole story is just the work of the “dishonest media.” Look at that image and tell me, honestly, that you just saw a “Sheriff’s Star.” I didn’t see a sheriff star, Mr. Kushner, and I’m a smart person. After all, I work for your paper.
Edmund Burke once said, in times that are starting to seem more and more similar: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Well, here I am, and here we are. Both Jewish, both members of the media. And you might choose silence, but I’ve said my piece.