Amidst a notable increase in threats of violence — and actual damage perpetrated against — Jewish community centers, schools and cemeteries, the White House has responded one of two ways. Either with condemnation, as President Donald Trump did last week, or with complaint, as press secretary Sean Spicer has on several occasions. “It’s never good enough,” the latter chastised reporters during a recent White House press briefing when the topic (and Trump’s initial response) were brought up. On Tuesday, Trump was again asked about the nationwide phenomena, but this time his words were startlingly different.
As in, they didn’t make all that much sense at first. For according to BuzzFeed News, Trump told state attorney generals gathered in Washington D.C. that the threats and attacks may not be what they seem. Per Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was among the state officials present:
“He just said, ‘Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,’ and he used the word ‘reverse’ I would say two to three times in his comments,” Shapiro said. “He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible.”
Shapiro told BuzzFeed News he “[didn’t] know what [Trump] means, or why he said that,” adding “it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.” Even so, he stressed the president acknowledged how “reprehensible” the occurrences were and assured his audience he would address the matter during his congressional address Tuesday night.
In light of Shapiro’s account, and a tweet by a potential Trump White House staffer linking the anti-Semitic attacks to a questionable Breitbart story, the Washington Post suggested Trump’s cryptic use of “reverse” could indicate a different, more troubling tactic. That is, the president and his advisors’ belief that these incidents aren’t the work of Trump supporters or anti-Semites, but rather a series of false flag operations.
Consider Trump’s riotous press conference in mid-February. As the Post notes, a reporter’s question about whether or not the increased anti-Semitism was due to Trump supporters evidently set off a nerve with the president:
“This has to do with racism and horrible things that are put up. Some of it written by our opponents. You do know that. Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that. Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they’re put up by the other side… you have some of those signs and some of that anger is caused by the other side. They’ll do signs, and they’ll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won’t be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you.”
The White House didn’t respond to BuzzFeed’s request for comment. However, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and the Anti-Defamation League did, as both questioned the president’s comments in separate statements. The Senate Minority Leader went so far as to call Trump’s remarks “absurd and obscene,” while the ADL expressed its hope the president would clear up his comments in his speech.