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Rabbi: We need to see Trump ‘consistently’ denounce bigotry

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One of the rabbis who cancelled an annual conference call with President Trump this week said the president needs to “consistently” denounce bigotry after violence erupted at a white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Thursday that “the buck stops” with Trump when it comes to denouncing bigotry in the wake of such events.

“The buck stops with the president of the United States,” Pesner said. “We need to see persistently and consistently a clear message from this president and then actions that follow that message.”

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Pesner said the “false equivalency” that Trump drew between white supremacists and counterprotesters was what led him and the other rabbis to announce Wednesday that they would cancel their annual conference call with the president.

“For the president of the United States to draw a false equivalency between those anti-semites, those neo-Nazis, and the very people who were peacefully protesting against bigotry, was reprehensible,” Pesner said. “And so we just couldn’t hold the call.”

Rabbis from four major Jewish organizations criticized the president on Wednesday, saying they found his response to Charlottesville “lacking in moral leadership and empathy.” The organizations traditionally hold a conference call every year with the president to mark the upcoming Jewish holidays.

“We have concluded that President Trump’s statements during and after the tragic events in Charlottesville are so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year,” the rabbis said in a statement Wednesday.

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