President Donald Trump on Wednesday tweeted a fawning quote from a conservative, non-Jewish radio host who described Trump as the "King of Israel," and said, without evidence, that Israeli Jews "love him like he is the second coming of God."
Trump's tweets cited Wayne Allyn Root, who described himself in a 2016 Townhall column as a "Jew turned evangelical Christian" and has promoted several conspiracy theories in the past, including that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that Obama is gay.
"[T]he Jewish people in Israel love him like he's the King of Israel," Trump quoted Root as saying. "They love him like he is the second coming of God...But American Jews don't know him or like him. They don't even know what they're doing or saying anymore."
"Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words. "President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world...and the Jewish people in Israel love him....- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019
....like he's the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God...But American Jews don't know him or like him. They don't even know what they're doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense! But that's OK, if he keeps doing what he's doing, he's good for.....- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019
Trump's tweets made "King of Israel" the leading trending topic of the day on Twitter, generating many baffled and outraged responses. Later on Wednesday, Trump said, "I am the chosen one" to fix U.S. trade imbalance with China as he looked to the sky.
He told reporters that his trade war with China was one that should have taken place a long time ago: "Somebody had to do it, so I'm taking on China. I'm taking on China on trade, and you know what? We're winning."
In the Bible, Jewish leaders call Jesus the "king of Israel" in a mocking way when he was put on the cross, according to Matthew 27:42: "He's the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him."
Root also says that Jews "love him like he is the second coming of God." Jewish scriptures include mentions of a concept of a messiah who will improve the world, but it's left unspecific and is not central to Judaism. Christianity includes the core idea of messiah, or savior - Jesus.
The Pew Research Center found in 2018 that 69% of Israelis had confidence in Trump to do the right thing regarding world affairs. Pew's poll did not break out by religion, but an earlier Pew study from 2014 and 2015 found 81% of Israel's population was Jewish.
According to Gallup polling, 26% of American Jews approved of Trump in 2018.
Root made his comments on Newsmax TV, which were picked up by Trump Wednesday morning. Trump endorsed Root's 2015 book about how Trump was changing America, and Root has spoken at Trump rallies.
In the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting conducted by a lone white man, Root falsely blamed "Muslim terror." He also pushed the idea that the death of Democratic staffer Seth Rich was ordered by Democratic leaders. In addition, he repeated right-wing theories that Jewish billionaire George Soros paid Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters.
While Root isn't the first to make biblical comparisons of Trump, the "King of Israel" link to Jesus would be considered out of most mainstream conservative Christian views.
Trump is not the first president to apparently link himself to Jesus. President Andrew Johnson, who took Abraham Lincoln's place after Lincoln was assassinated, handled Reconstruction after the Civil War. According to biographer Hans Trefousse, Johnson had delivered a speech at each stop on a tour across America: "Generally recounting his rise from the tailor's bench to the presidency, he compared himself to Jesus Christ and explained that like the Savior, he, too, liked to pardon repentant sinners," Trefousse wrote in the biography.
After Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Trump to King Cyrus of Persia, who allowed Jews to return to Israel, ending their historic exile in Babylon.
Trump's tweets come in the middle of the latest debate over American support for Israel and its government's policies. U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., were barred from entering Israel earlier this month following support of a boycott against the nation - and advocacy for their travel ban from Trump.
On Tuesday, Trump suggested American Jews who vote for Democrats show "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty," leading critics to suggest Trump was repeating old anti-Semitic tropes that Jews have "dual loyalty."
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, condemned Trump's remarks on Wednesday, saying that bipartisan support is "absolutely essential to the future well being and security of the Jewish State."
"To say otherwise, and depend only on one party, particularly in these turbulent times of increased hate and anti-Semitism, only weakens and divides the most important Jewish community in the Diaspora," they said in a statement.
Trump's tweets on Wednesday quoting Root were met with a mix of outrage, confusion, biblical interpretation and humor from across the religious landscape.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)