You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Is Trump’s botched handling of the Holocaust controversy incompetence or Orwellian malevolence? The answer is “yes.”

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

As with everything these days, the Trump administration has managed to mess up what is meant to be routine. On Friday, the White House released a statement in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention the genocide of six million Jews. At best, it was a really stupid mistake; at worst, a signal to the many anti-Semites who have cottoned to Trump’s presidency. The statement, which failed to recognize that Jews were the intended targets of a state-sanctioned persecution, drew significant backlash.

In response, the Trump administration has refused to admit error. On Sunday, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus took to Meet the Press to defend the statement. “I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust including obviously, all of the Jewish people affected and the miserable genocide that occurred—it’s something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad,” he said. “If we could wipe it off of the history books, we would. But we can’t.”

Priebus first posits an alternative history in which the Holocaust was not primarily about the Jews, then declares that this alternative history can’t be erased—this is, for lack of a better term, Orwellian. Administration officials then doubled down, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters on Monday that “by and large” Trump has “been praised” for his administration’s statement. As many noted, the only media organs that praised the statement were on the fringe and racist right.