I can't imagine what it must be like to be a staffer for either presidential campaign right now, with less than a day to go before the general election on Tuesday — it must be a mix of exhausting chaos. For one Trump surrogate, someone needed a few extra hours of sleep as she made quite the gaffe live on CNN Sunday night. Speaking about Jay Z's 2012 music video "No Church in the Wild" — because that's totally relevant to this election — Republican pundit Scottie Nell Hughes called homemade thrown incendiary devices known as Molotov cocktails "Mazel Tov cocktails" instead. Oy vey. Sure it was a flub on live TV, it happens. But Hughes's Mazel Tov cocktail gaffe gets at something far more concerning — layers of anti-Semitism that has plagued the Republican party for years — and now its current presidential nominee.
First some context, because this is a bit convoluted: In a roundtable discussion on Sunday's CNN Tonight, the larger conversation was about how music artists Béyonce and Jay Z both vocally support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Over the course of Trump's "grab her by the p*ssy" fiasco, Trump surrogates tried to spin the backlash by saying Clinton was equally as offensive because she's supported by musicians who say "bad words" in their music. Wait... what? Moving on: Hughes tried to describe the Jay Z video and the "Mazel Tov cocktail" gaffe was born. CNN Host Don Lemon quickly corrected her.
I can totally blame Hughes's mishegas on being completely overtired and overworked as she stumps for Trump across TV networks. But the fact that, of all the ways that Molotov cocktail could have been butchered, she goes with "Mazel Tov" — a Hebrew phrase meaning "congratulations" or "good luck" — and it speaks to a much bigger issue among the Republican Party. While Hughes's remark in and of itself wasn't necessarily anti-Semitic, it came right after Trump's latest TV ad aired over the weekend that has been surrounded in controversy since then.
On Saturday, GOP candidate Donald Trump released his closing ad spot as his campaign comes down to the wire. At face value, it's a 2-minute thesis video on why Americans should vote for Trump on Tuesday. But as the video keeps going, it's evident something about its message just feels off. Multiple viewings only bring that "offness" into further clarity as you begin to realize that Trump's ad is anti-Semitic as anti-Semitism tropes parade one after another.
Trump's ad features his voiceover with phrases like "those who control the levers of power in Washington" and "global special interests" overlaid with imagery of George Soros and Fed chair Janet Yellen, respectively. Both are Jews. Also featured is Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein — also Jewish. Their images are shown in the context of language such as "they partner with these people who don't have your good in mind" and "they have bled this country dry." (Jewish blood libel, anyone?)
As a Jew, I'm acutely aware of the overtly anti-Semitic overtones in Trump's ad: They play on centuries-old motifs of anti-Semitism. These are not newly invented sensitivities during an ideologically tense election season: Anti-Semitic tropes of Jews as evil money-grubbers and world dominators go back to ancient times. And Trump's ad is hardly isolated: The Republican Party has been accused of anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, Trump's chief Israel advisor Jason Greenblatt sent a statement to CBS News denying the ad was anti-Semitic at all:
The [Anti-Defamation League] should focus on real anti-Semitism and hatred, and not try to find any where none exist. I am offended and concerned that an institution such as the ADL would involve itself in partisan politics instead of focusing on its important mission.
And yet, there have been plenty of anti-Semitic moments peppered throughout Trump's campaign, from retweeting anti-Semitic tweets to hiring Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as his campaign CEO. According to a report in the New York Daily News, Bannon reportedly called Jews "whiny brats" and didn't want his children going to school with them. His campaign has also given voice to the "alt right" — the new hip name for white supremacists — as some of Trump's most ardent supporters. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to Romper's request for comment regarding the ad or other allegations of anti-Semitism against the campaign.
In a lot of ways, it's not surprising at all that Trump would invoke anti-Semitic overtones to close out his campaign. Let's not forget he announced his campaign run by calling Mexicans "drug dealers, criminals, and rapists" in his presidential announcement speech. He's the candidate who wants to ban all Muslims. If anything, I'm sure most of America's Jewry has been wondering just when Trump was going to go after them in his campaign built on fear-mongering and prejudice.
While Hughes's weekend "Mazel Tov cocktail" gaffe might seem like just another blip on the election radar, it's indicative of a bigger issue within the Republican party and its anti-Semitism problem — and how even something like a "Mazel Tov cocktail" could turn the Jewish vote against Trump at the polls on Tuesday.