Donald Trump and his campaign adamantly defended against allegations of anti-Semitism after Trump tweeted a meme showing a six-pointed star with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” next to a picture of Hillary Clinton atop a pile of money.
The presumptive nominee addressed the controversy in another tweet saying that the star depicted was a “Sheriff’s Star, or plain star” and that the media was to blame for the negative media coverage.
“Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!” Trump said.
Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2016
The tweet, which was posted on Saturday, was deleted two hours later and reposted with a circle instead of a star.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2016
It drew sharp criticism on the internet, especially from groups like the Anti-Defamation League, whose CEO Jonathan Greenblatt issued a statement calling for Trump to “unequivocally reject the hate-filled extremists orbiting around his campaign.”
A report by the Associated Press found that the image appeared to have first been published online on June 15, when it was posted by the Twitter user @FishBoneHead1. The account, which described itself as belonging to a comedian, regularly tweeted out anti-Clinton and right-leaning messages and images.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign was quick to rebuke the image, with director of Jewish Outreach, Sarah Bard, calling the image “blatantly anti-Semitic.”
“Donald Trump’s use of a blatantly anti-Semitic image from racist websites to promote his campaign would be disturbing enough, but the fact that it’s a part of a pattern should give voters major cause for concern,” Bard said in a statement.
“Now, not only won’t he apologize for it, he’s peddling lies and blaming others.”
Trump campaign social media director Dan Scavino said in a statement posted on Trump’s Facebook page Monday evening that he had taken it from an anti-Clinton Twitter feed and had never intended to offend anyone.
“The social media graphic used this weekend was not created by the campaign nor was it sourced from an anti-Semitic site. It was lifted from an anti-Hillary Twitter user where countless images appear,” he wrote.
He said that the star, which he described as a sheriff’s badge “fit with the theme of corrupt Hillary and that is why I selected it.”
“As the social media director for the campaign, I would never offend anyone and therefore chose to remove the image,” he added.
Trump’s former campaign manager turned-political commentator Corey Lewandowski defended the tweet, saying that controversy surrounding it was “political correctness run amok” in an interview on CNN.
“This is the same star that sheriff’s departments all over the country use to represent law enforcement,” he said. “You’re reading into something that isn’t there.
“They put a new tweet up with the circle,” he added. “The message is the same. Let’s look at the message. The message is that Hillary Clinton is corrupt.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan also came out criticizing Donald Trump for the image, saying it and others like it have “no place” in a presidential campaign. He says the Trump campaign has to “clean this thing up.”
Ryan made his comments Tuesday on the Charlie Sykes radio show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Ryan also said that if he commented on every “ridiculous” tweet sent out by the Trump campaign, “I’d have no time for anything else.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report