Just when you thought the Trump team's non-response to anti-Semitic death threats aimed at a reporter who simply wrote a less-than-glowing article about Melania Trump was the ultimate low, there's a new bottom. In an interview with Melania Trump that DuJour posted on Tuesday, the potential first lady did not condone the attacks against Julia Ioffe, the journalist who wrote the GQ profile of her and faced vile and violent anti-Semitic threats for it. But Trump suggested she believed Ioffe deserved the backlash. She told DuJour that Ioffe had "provoked them [her supporters]."
Like her husband did in his interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer shortly after he was declared the Republican presumptive nominee earlier this month, Trump fell short of disavowing the anti-Semitic attacks against Ioffe. When Blitzer gave Donald Trump a clear opportunity to denounce the anti-Semitic attacks, his response was to, instead, criticize Ioffe's reporting. “I haven’t read the article, but I heard it was a very inaccurate article,” Trump told Blitzer. “And I heard it was a nasty article."
Similarly, Melania seemed to wash her hands clean of any responsibility to criticize or denounce such horrific, anti-Semitic behavior aimed against Ioffe, telling DuJour:
I don’t control my fans ... but I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.
I don't know whether Melania Trump's comments are more galling to me as a Jew or as a journalist. As a reminder to anyone who hasn't followed the attacks on Ioffe after her GQ profile, the journalist faced a barrage of anti-Semitism, including tweets with "her face superimposed on a mug shot from Auschwitz," as The Guardian reported. Ioffe told the publication that, "After a few phone calls like this, with people playing Hitler speeches, and the imagery, and people telling me my face would look good on a lampshade, it’s hard to laugh.” To an American Jew — really, to anyone — memories of the Holocaust are not distant and seeing an unwillingness to denounce such anti-Semitic rhetoric and threats are disturbing beyond words.
Moreover, to say that anyone has "provoked" the threats that Ioffe faced — according to the Washington Post, she filed a police report stating she suffered “threat to kidnap or injure a person,” which specifically included having an "unknown person" send "her a caricature of a person being shot in the back of the head by another, among other harassing calls and disturbing emails depicting violent scenarios” — for writing an article is so completely disturbing. In fact, I would say such remarks reflect an utter disrespect for freedom of speech.
Trump didn't stop there, though. She also gamely defended her husband against the comparisons to Hitler that comedian Louis C.K. (and others) have made.
We know the truth. He’s not Hitler. He wants to help America. He wants to unite people. They think he doesn’t but he does. Even with the Muslims, it’s temporary.
It should suffice to say that whenever one has to legitimately refute assessments that your spouse is too similar to the Führer, it's already a less than ideal situation — even more so if said spouse is running for U.S. president and has a fair shot at getting the keys to the White House.