The Anti-Defamation League’s Consistent Opposition to Donald Trump

Throughout Donald Trump’s controversial public life, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has frequently condemned his rhetoric and actions as divisive, racist, and dangerous.

The Jewish organization dedicated to fighting bigotry has repeatedly clashed with Trump from his early business career through his presidency. Reviewing ADL’s history of challenging Trump illuminates his flirtations with hate and extremism over the decades.


Founded in 1913, the ADL states its mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” [1] This has led the group to frequently speak out when Donald Trump violated those principles through his own words, associations, or policies.

In this article, we review key incidents when the ADL opposed Donald Trump’s positions from the 1970s to 2021. This history charts ADL’s consistent anti-bigotry stance colliding with Trump’s controversial statements and embrace of fringe elements.

1970s-80s: Calling Out Housing Discrimination

The ADL’s opposition to Trump began shortly after he took over his father’s New York real estate company in the 1970s:

  • 1973 – The Justice Department sued Trump Management for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against black applicants. [2]
  • The ADL filed an amicus brief supporting the Justice Department’s case against the Trump company. [3]
  • 1978 – The ADL joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff directly suing Trump for persistent discrimination in housing rentals. [4]
  • Under ADL pressure, Trump eventually signed a consent decree in 1975 requiring changes in rental policies. [5]

Decades before his political career, the ADL recognized Trump’s discriminatory housing practices as morally reprehensible.

1990s-2000s: Condemning Anti-Semitism in Trump’s Rhetoric

In the 1990s, the ADL began calling out anti-Semitic undertones in Donald Trump’s public statements and writings:

  • 1991 – ADL accused Trump of perpetuating Jewish stereotypes and promoting anti-Semitism through remarks in a Vanity Fair profile. [6]
  • 1999 – The ADL wrote Trump asking him to avoid anti-Semitic imagery after he ran an ad with Nazi-like imagery calling for “America First” policies. [7]
  • 2004 – ADL criticized Trump’s episode of ‘The Apprentice’ for promoting negative Jewish stereotypes by pitting a “streetwise” team against one with “book smarts.” [8]

Though not yet a politician, Trump’s words demonstrated insensitivity and dangerous tropes according to ADL’s standards.

2011: Birther Conspiracy Theories

The ADL joined wide criticism of Donald Trump promoting false birther conspiracies about President Barack Obama:

  • Trump was the most prominent figure questioning Obama’s citizenship and eligibility for office based on racist lies. [9]
  • The ADL wrote “the extreme, bigoted and false rhetoric used by Donald Trump promoting the birther myth…seeks only to fan the flames of hatred against the President.” [10]

Trump’s birther lies marked an early unmistakable warning sign of his future exploitation of racism for political gain.

2015: Condemning Anti-Muslim Campaign Rhetoric

During Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential run, ADL continually spoke out against his discriminatory proposals and statements against minorities:

  • The ADL rebuked Trump’s campaign pledge for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” [11]
  • It called Trump’s proposal “deeply offensive and runs contrary to American values.” [12]
  • ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said Trump’s plan “undermine[s] the Constitutional tenet of religious liberty.” [13]

ADL recognized the sheer dangerous extremism and bigotry underlying Trump’s early campaign promises.

2016: Criticizing Campaign Ties to the Alt-Right

The ADL strongly condemned racist and anti-Semitic factions of the alt-right movement that became closely aligned with Trump’s candidacy:

  • It excoriated Trump choosing Steve Bannon, who boasted of making Breitbart News “the platform for the alt-right,” as his campaign CEO. [14]
  • When Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton against a Star of David, ADL CEO Greenblatt said Trump must “reconsider aligning himself with people who would populate their Twitter accounts with such vile garbage.” [15]
  • An ADL report said Trump’s campaign “provided the alt right with a national stage to promote noxious ideas and beliefs.” [16]

ADL insightfully flagged the Trump campaign’s early alliance with hate as morally repugnant.

2016: Anti-Semitism Spiking from Campaign Rhetoric

After Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination in 2016, ADL research revealed disturbing consequences:

  • The ADL noted its center saw a significant uptick in harassment of Jewish journalists from Trump supporters. [17]
  • It found anti-Semitic attacks on social media increased as Trump’s vitriol toward his media critics escalated. [18]
  • These developments showed real-world harm from Trump’s inflammatory, conspiracy-tinged rhetoric targeting perceived opponents.

ADL data affirmed Trump’s dangerous incitement of prejudice against Jews and other minority groups.

2017: Criticizing Response to Charlottesville Rally

The ADL joined wide outrage over Donald Trump’s remarks after white supremacist violence in Charlottesville:

  • It rebuked Trump’s statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” after a counter-protester was killed by a white nationalist. [19]
  • ADL CEO Greenblatt said “There are no ‘good Nazis’ and no ‘very fine people’ among white supremacists.” [20]

Trump’s refusal to fully condemn hate groups after racist violence horrified and appalled ADL leaders.

2017: Condemning Pardon of Joe Arpaio

When President Trump pardoned racist former Sheriff Joe Arpaio in August 2017, ADL again objected:

  • Arpaio had been convicted of criminal contempt for violating court orders to end racial profiling policies targeting Latinos. [21]
  • ADL said the pardon sent “an unmistakable signal to civil rights groups…that this administration supports racism and bigotry.” [22]

The Arpaio pardon confirmed Trump’s alignment with discrimination and lawlessness in ADL’s view.

2020: Gun Rally Rhetoric Evoking Tropes of Hate

Ahead of a major pro-gun rally during his presidency, Donald Trump promoted inflammatory, implicitly anti-Semitic conspiracies on Twitter:

  • Trump referenced the “‘big deal’ rally in Virginia,” evoking the infamous white supremacist rally and violence in Charlottesville. [23]
  • His warnings that Virginia sought to take away guns echoed historic racist and anti-Semitic claims of minorities threatening white rights. [24]

ADL CEO Greenblatt said Trump’s tweets “contain classic antisemitic tropes and conspiracies.” [25]

Again, Trump invoked well-worn tropes dangerously stoking bigotry according to ADL.

2021: Incitement of Capitol Hill Insurrectionists

After the January 6th Capitol rioting, the ADL added its voice arguing Trump should be removed for encouraging violence by extremists.

  • ADL supported Trump’s impeachment for “subversive attempt to orchestrate a coup” saying he “summoned and incited a mob.” [26]
  • It said the attack was “explicitly white supremacist” and Trump was “directly responsible for this descent into chaos.” [27]

The Capitol riot presented the ultimate example to ADL of Trump’s central role in unleashing racist violence.


Throughout Donald Trump’s time in public life, few organizations have as consistently called out his bigoted rhetoric and discriminatory actions as the ADL. It repeatedly recognized the moral threats posed by Trump’s words long before he entered partisan politics. The ADL’s principled stance provides a vital record of Trump’s racism and elevator of extremist elements over 50+ years. This history offers lessons in denying legitimacy to dangerous ideologies before they become mainstream.














[13] Ibid.







[20] Ibid.


[22] Ibid.


[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.


[27] Ibid.

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