Vice President Mike Pence said during his visit to the cemetery: "There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism"

By Tierney McAfee
February 22, 2017 05:44 PM
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Mike Pence
Credit: Jeff Roberson/AP

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday visited the suburban St. Louis Jewish cemetery that was badly damaged by vandals over the weekend.

After touring the historic Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, the vice president delivered remarks condemning the vandalism of 154 headstones. “There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism,” he said, according to a pool report.

During his visit, Pence also listened to a rabbi say a prayer and joined Missouri Gov. Eric Robert Greitens in helping clear brush as part of a volunteer event to clean up the cemetery following the attack.

In his remarks, Pence also touched on President Trump‘s response to the vandalism and to the recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the nation.

“On Monday morning America awoke to discover that nearly 200 tombstones were toppled in a nearby Jewish graveyard,” Pence said. “Speaking just yesterday, President Trump called this a horrible and painful act. And so it was. That along with other recent threats to the Jewish community centers around the country. He declared it all a sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil. We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetuate it in the strongest possible terms.”

After failing to denounce the recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents when given the opportunity multiple times last week, Trump finally told MSNBC on Tuesday, “I will tell you that anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.”

But many Jewish groups criticized what they viewed as Trump’s late and lackluster response.

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect notably called the president’s comments a “Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration.”

After Pence’s cemetery visit on Wednesday, however, Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center, released a statement thanking the vice president and praising him as “the ultimate mensch.”

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“Vice President Pence proved to be the ultimate mensch by visiting, and even cleaning, the desecrated Jewish graves in St. Louis,” the statement said. “Make no mistake: We have been critical of President Trump for his gross insensitivity to Antisemitism, including through his omission of Jews in Holocaust remembrance. But through the Vice President’s visit to St. Louis today, this Administration finally showed America the kind of response our nation was waiting for all along — a response filled with proactive heart.”