A new Trump campaign ad portraying Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as Joe Biden's puppet master is the latest in a long pattern of anti-Semitic dog whistles by the White House occupant.
Sponsored by the Trump Make America Great Again committee, the ad features a puppet sporting the Democratic presidential nominee's face being controlled by Sanders, who is Jewish.
Trump's 2020 deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager confirmed that the image is part of a Trump Facebook campaign. The Trump team is also running two similar ads featuring former President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Biden puppet masters.
Bend the Arc, a Jewish group, tweeted Tuesday, "There's a long, dangerous history of Jews being scapegoated as all-powerful puppet masters. Trump is using this antisemitic lie to spread fear and division."
This "puppet master" imagery was a favorite trope among Nazi propagandists. A 1941 anti-Jewish poster housed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum features a Jewish puppeteer operating Stalin and Churchill marionettes. A 1942 cartoon in a German magazine depicts a Jewish puppet master manipulating Roosevelt and Churchill puppets.
This isn't the first time Trump and his associates have come under fire for anti-Semitism.
During the 2016 election, Trump tweeted an image, later deleted, depicting then-rival Hillary Clinton next to what appeared to be a Star of David, set against a background of cash. According to the Associated Press, the original image seems to have appeared a few days earlier on a neo-Nazi internet message board.
The Trump campaign's final ad in that election was a video in which photos of Lloyd Blankfein, Janet Yellen, and George Soros — all Jewish — appeared with a voiceover by Trump warning of "global special interest" groups. The term "globalist" is often used as an anti-Semitic slur.
In 2017, Trump appointed Sebastian Gorka as a counterterrorism adviser. Gorka sparked controversy with his decision to attend Trump's Inaugural Ball in January wearing an honorary medal of a Hungarian nationalist organization with alleged Nazi ties. Gorka has repeatedly claimed he has zero connection to the group but wears the medal to honor his late father.
The same month, the administration made one glaring oversight in its statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day: It failed to mention Jews.
In August 2017, Trump famously called attendees at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which later turned violent and resulted in the death of one counterprotester, "very fine people." Rally-goers held tiki-torchers and chanted "You will not replace us" and "Jews will not replace us."
That same year, many human rights groups expressed concern that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would abolish the office of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism due to budget cuts. While Tillerson ultimately left the position intact, it remained unfilled until early 2019.
When a would-be attacker planted a pipe bomb in Soros's mailbox in October 2018, the Trump administration stoked the flames by repeatedly implying a caravan of migrants from Central America was funded by the Jewish billionaire. There was zero truth to the claim.
That same month, 11 were killed in a mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The gunman in that attack had reportedly yelled "All Jews must die" during the shooting and was later found to have posted several antisemitic conspiracy theories about Soros online.
More recently, in 2019, Trump remarked that Jews who vote Democrat either lack knowledge or exhibit "great disloyalty," playing on centuries-old tropes of Jews as an ethno-national group whose ties to Israel make them disloyal to their own nation.
In August 2019, Trump also referred to Jews in real estate as "brutal killers" during a speech to the Israeli American Council.
Duke again endorsed Trump in 2020, tweeting in July that Trump is "the only way to stop the commie Bolsheviks."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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