Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday rejected the criticism over a tweet which depicted his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of cash and what appeared to be a Star of David.
In a tweet quoted by Reuters on Monday, Trump said he had not meant the six-pointed star to refer to the Star of David. Rather, he explained, the star could have referred to a sheriff's badge, which is shaped similarly except for small circles at the ends of each of its six points, or a "plain star."
"Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff's Star, or plain star!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump had retracted the tweet shortly after it was posted following a flood of negative responses, which highlighted the post’s use of what appeared to be a Jewish religious symbol.
A second post replaced the six-pointed star with a red circle.
His comments on Monday followed criticism by Clinton herself, who called the tweet “blatantly anti-Semitic”.
“Donald Trump's use of a blatantly anti-Semitic image from racist websites to promote his campaign would be disturbing enough, but the fact that it's part of a pattern should give voters major cause for concern," Clinton's campaign said in a statement quoted by AFP.
"Now, not only won't he apologize for it, he's peddling lies and blaming others," it added.
Trump later released a statement saying Clinton's criticism of the image was an attempt to distract the public from "the dishonest behavior of herself and her husband."
He was referring to a heavily criticized private meeting between Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as an investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state nears a conclusion.
Ed Brookover, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said in an interview on CNN on Monday that the campaign felt it had "corrected" the issue about the star by deleting Trump's original tweet.
"These images get posted and reposted and reposted on social media on many forums," he said, according to Reuters. "There was never any intention of anti-Semitism."
Last month a left-leaning Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Daily Forwardaccused the GOP nominee of ignoring anti-Semitic incitement amongst some of his supporters in the fringe right or “alt-right”, and imposed a 24-hour ban on coverage of the candidate, dubbing it a “Trumpatorium”.
“Even if you don’t believe that the presumed Republican standard bearer has stoked this cyber-hate (which is a generous assumption), you have to admit that he appears to have done nothing to minimize or condemn it,” wrote Jane Eisner, editor of the Forward.
Jason Greenblatt, a Trump advisor and long-time confidant slammed the accusation, calling it a “flashy headline” and stressing that “Trump has unequivocally rebuked all forms of hatred, including anti-Semitism.”