Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons has known Donald Trump for 30 years, long before he sought the presidency.
This is a man, Simmons said, who welcomed Jewish people into Mar-a-Lago, who saw the first Muslim woman crowned as Miss USA.
But the Trump he knew then is not the Trump he sees now. The president’s behavior throughout his time in office, most recently in his response to last week's violence in Charlottesville, Va., is “shocking,” Simmons said.
“He’s not acting on any real belief,” Simmons said. “We have to combat on the effect of his words and he needs to make choices that will not only benefit the people who put him in office.”
Simmons, along with Rabbi Marc Schneier, leads the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a not-for-profit organization that works to improve black-Jewish relations and Muslim-Jewish relations.
One week ago, when white nationalists, white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis shouted phrases like “Jews will not replace us” and “white lives matter,” Simmons and Schneier saw the very hatred they have worked together for decades to combat.
“I found it both fascinating and disturbing,” Schneier said. “If you listen carefully to the rants, the two communities they singled out were Jews and African-Americans. Perhaps they resent to this day the historical alliance that brought social and political change to this country.”
Schneier criticized Trump’s response that the violent clashes that killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens more were caused by both white supremacists and the left-wing counter-protesters.
“When it comes to standing up to evil, there is no moral ambiguity,” he said. “To draw a moral equivalence of people marching with neo Nazis – calling people criminal ‘n------‘ and Jewish socialists -- to those who came for a counter demonstration, that is simply unconscionable. There is no choice.”
Simmons agreed with Schneier’s assessment.
“We have to create a society again where this is unacceptable,” he said.