Politics

Trump Sparks Bipartisan Criticism Over Holocaust Museum Cuts

In response to the news that President Trump’s budget would call for $3 million in funding cuts to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a bipartisan coalition of 64 members of Congress have been swift in their denouncement. 

As The Hill reported, the coalition has drafted a letter to the Interior appropriations subcommittee that makes clear why now is a particularly bad time for the cuts.  

Backlash against the proposed museum cuts was swift

“In our view, the mission of the museum has never been more important, particularly as the number of anti-Semitic attacks around the world rises,” it said. 

“Attempts to cut funding for the museum are misguided, and this letter demonstrates a strong, bipartisan commitment to protecting the museum and the educational value it provides to all Americans,” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) told The Hill.

Trump’s budget proposal would decrease the Museum’s budget by 5 percent and drop it back to its 2016 level of $54 million.

The budget proposal said the cuts “will assist in meeting the President’s budget objectives, while still providing adequate funds to cover pay increases and rising costs for current services for the Museum’s facilities and collections. The decrease is achieved by reductions in staff and selected non-pay areas.”

In a prepared statement, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of anti-Semitism watchdog group the Anti-Defamation League, blasted Trump for cutting funding and he urged Congress to fully fund the Museum: “In these divided times, with increasing numbers of hate crimes against Jews and other religious minorities, this museum's mission is as critical as ever.”

Trump's past behavior adds to the context of this fury. 

The budget cuts are particularly disconcerting as they come after a series of problematic statements and actions from Trump, during his campaign and nascent presidency. 

During the 2016 campaign, he tweeted an illustration using a six-pointed star resembling the Star of David over a background of a pile of money. The image, taken from a fringe website, was meant to denigrate Hillary Clinton’s supposed corruption, garnered a quick backlash, and the Trump campaign's explanation didn't help matters. 

 

In January, Trump failed to specifically mention the Jewish people in his prepared statements for Holocaust Remembrance Day, an omission the White House then defended.  

Then—during Passover—White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sparked outrage when positively compared Adolph Hitler to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said that Hitler "did not use chemical weapons." That blunder, for which Spicer clarified and apologized, was roundly criticized, with the Holocaust Memorial Museum tweeting a video of U.S. troops liberating a concentration camp in response.  

Trump also drew criticism on his recent trip to the Middle East for his all-caps note in the guest book of the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem which said: "IS A GREAT HONOR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS – SO AMAZING & WILL NEVER FORGET!” Critics said the reaction was too glib and self-referential for a sitting President. 

Trump's message was too glib for a solemn memorial, critics said

These incidents—and the Trump administration's proposed funding cuts—come amidst a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in the United States. New data from the Anti-Defamation League showed anti-Semetic incidents like assaults, vandalism and harassment, surged 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017.