Trump advisor and Observer publisher Jared Kushner responds to open letter
Peter Sterne, Politico, Jul 5 2016
New York Observer publisher Jared Kushner said in a statement on Tuesday evening that his father-in-law Donald Trump “does not at all subscribe to any racist or anti-semitic thinking.” Kushner, who rarely speaks to the press, released the statement in response to an open letter from Dana Schwartz, an entertainment writer at the Observer, that was published on the Observer’s website on Tuesday afternoon. Schwartz criticized Kushner for remaining silent with regard to Trump’s use of anti-Semitic imagery in a tweet about Hillary Clinton. The editor of the Observer, Ken Kurson, told Politico that he signed off on the open letter, and that he did not discuss it with Kushner beforehand. On Saturday, Trump tweeted and later deleted a photoshopped image that depicted Hillary Clinton in front of a background of money, next to a six-pointed star that read “Most corrupt candidate ever!” The tweet was widely interpreted as an anti-Semitic dog whistle, though the Trump campaign later claimed that the six-pointed star was meant to be a “sheriff’s star,” not the Star of David. Mic and The Daily Beast reported that the image originated on a white Supremacist twitter account. Kushner, who is Jewish, is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and has reportedly become a top adviser to the Trump campaign. He has owned the Observer since 2006. In April, the Observer endorsed Trump in the Republican primary, in an editorial that criticized Ted Cruz for a “veiled embrace of anti-Semitism.” The paper’s close relationship with Trump raised questions in the newsroom and prompted Observer politics reporter Ross Barkan and restaurant critic Joshua David Stein to resign from the paper. Schwartz, who is also Jewish, wrote in her open letter to Kushner:
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.
Schwartz told Politico that she spent the past weekend thinking about writing the open letter. Before writing it, she said, she checked with Observer editor in chief Ken Kurson, who supported her decision to publish it on the paper’s website. She said:
I respect Ken. He’s been really great and open-minded, and I’m really happy I could have written it here.
Schwartz said that she has never met Kushner and did not reach out to him before writing the letter. She also said that she had not heard from him or anyone else in the Trump camp since the letter was published. But she hoped that Kushner would respond. She said:
I would love a response. I would actually love an off the record response, to speak to him as a human being.
Hours later, Kushner released a brief statement in response to her open letter. Kushner said in the statement:
My father-in-law is an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife. I know that Donald does not at all subscribe to any racist or anti-Semitic thinking. I have personally seen him embrace people of all racial and religious backgrounds. The suggestion that he may be intolerant is not reflective of the Donald Trump I know.
Schwartz was not impressed with the statement. She told Politico in a text message on Tuesday evening:
It seems crafted by PR, and doesn’t address the point of my article in the slightest. I’d love a real response from Mr Kushner.
For his part, Kurson said that Schwartz is “a brilliant and thoughtful writer” but that he personally disagrees with her criticism of Kushner. He said:
No one I know sets the sensitivity meter higher than I do on anti-Semitism. My mother fled the Holocaust and I am highly identified as a Jewish journalist. If I saw that in Trump, I’d be the first one to write about it, and no one on earth could stop me. In my opinion, Donald Trump is not a Jew hater.
He said that he did not discuss the open letter with Kushner. Read Kurson’s full response to Schwartz’s open letter below:
I disagree with Dana’s criticism. All presidential candidates attract people whose support makes them uncomfortable. I think the effort to paint Donald Trump as an anti-Semite because some of his supporters are is like saying that Bernie Sanders hates Pindostan because some of his supporters spit on Pindosi flags at his rallies. I understand that the worst among Trump’s supporters can make Jewish journalists including myself uncomfortable with their stupid and hateful screeching. But with regard to Trump personally, I’m in a different place from Dana, who happens to be a brilliant and thoughtful writer. I’ve seen this guy hold his grandsons at a bris (ie circumcision, disgusting habit – RB). No one I know sets the sensitivity meter higher than I do on anti-Semitism. My mother fled the Holocaust and I am highly identified as a Jewish journalist. If I saw that in Trump, I’d be the first one to write about it, and no one on earth could stop me. In my opinion, Donald Trump is not a Jew hater. The effort to hold him responsible for what his supporters do is a dangerous trend because it empowers anyone who wants to shut a candidate up to simply organize some misbehavior on his behalf.