Almost from the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has been widely accused of engaging in whistle-dog politics through social media. His retweets of white supremacists have been chronicled in Fortune and elsewhere. But Trump’s latest Twitter controversy—posting a photo of Hillary Clinton featuring a six-pointed star that many saw as a Star of David over a pile of cash—is now casting a shadow over his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a real estate developer and owner of The New York Observer.
On Tuesday, an Observer staffer Dana Schwartz wrote an open letter to Kushner, published on the Observer’s site, criticizing Kushner for not speaking out against Trump’s goading of racist and anti-Semitic supporters.
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?
The article immediately went viral, causing Kushner, who is generally press shy, to issue a brief statement saying Trump isn’t racist or anti-Semitic. On Wednesday, Kushner expanded on that, publishing a long defense of Trump on The Observer’s site. Beginning with “My father-in-law is not an anti-Semite,” Kushner wrote about how Trump has been “an incredibly loving and tolerant person” who embraces people “of all racial and religious backgrounds, at his companies and his personal life.”
Kushner, whose wife Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism, rejected the idea that Trump’s tweets have encouraged white supremacists. “(B)laming Donald Trump for the most outrageous things done by people who claim to support him is no different from blaming Bernie Sanders for the people who stomp and spit on American flags at his rallies,” he wrote.
But what about the image of Clinton, one that Mic reported originally appeared on a Neo-Nazi site?
Kushner suggested that was the result of “my father in law’s fast-moving team” retweeting an image “carelessly.” But he also wrote that “part of the reason it’s so shocking is that it’s the actual candidate communicating with the American public,” leaving some to wonder whether it was Donald Trump himself who retweeted the image. (Trump’s social media director has said he tweeted out the image from Trump’s account, though in the past Trump has said he does nearly all of his own tweeting.)
As for Dana Schwartz, the reporter, she told Fortune that she was “grateful” that Kushner wrote a response to her article. But she said he “deflected the major concern I have” — which is that “Donald Trump seems to have a pattern of relentlessly and willingly courting anti-Semites.” She added, “I’m sure Donald Trump is charming in person..but what we are seeing is he’s willing to make insecure and hateful people feel powerful through his tweets and campaign rhetoric.”