Whoopi Goldberg, the comedian and actress who is also a co-host of the ABC talk show “The View,” said repeatedly during an episode of the show that aired on Monday that the Holocaust was not about race, comments that come at a time of rising antisemitism globally. She later apologized.
In the episode, Ms. Goldberg said the Holocaust was about “man’s inhumanity to man” and “not about race.” When one of her co-hosts challenged that assertion, saying the Holocaust was driven by white supremacy, Ms. Goldberg said: “But these are two white groups of people.”
She added, “This is white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves.” As she continued to speak, music came on, indicating a commercial break.
There was a fierce backlash. Jewish groups said Ms. Goldberg’s comments were dangerous and the latest example of growing ignorance about the Nazi genocide. During World War II, under a policy of mass extermination, the Nazis killed six million Jews — about a third of the world’s Jewish population at the time — because they believed Jews were an inferior race.
Later Monday, Ms. Goldberg appeared on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” where she apologized, explaining that, as a Black person, she thinks of racism as being based on skin color but that she realized not everyone sees it that way. “I get it. Folks are angry,” she said. “I accept that, and I did it to myself.”
She apologized again on Tuesday at the start of “The View.” She expressed remorse over her remarks, saying she realized that they were misinformed and that she had misspoken.
“I said something that I feel a responsibility for not leaving unexamined because my words upset so many people, which was never my intention,” Ms. Goldberg said. “And I understand why now, and for that I am deeply, deeply grateful because the information I got was really helpful and helped me understand some different things.”
On Monday, Ms. Goldberg had been discussing a Tennessee school district’s recent decision to remove a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust from its curriculum when she made her initial comments on Monday’s episode. On Monday night, she released a statement apologizing for them. On Tuesday, she said that she had learned from the experience.
“It is indeed about race because Hitler and the Nazis considered Jews to be an inferior race,” she said. “Now, words matter, and mine are no exception. I regret my comments, as I said, and I stand corrected. I also stand with the Jewish people, as they know and y’all know because I’ve always done that.”
During an appearance on the show on Tuesday, Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was critical to combat hate and misinformation about the Holocaust.
“The Holocaust happened and we need to learn from this genocide if we want to prevent future tragedies from happening,” Mr. Greenblatt said.
Mr. Greenblatt suggested that “The View” should consider adding a Jewish host to its panel.
“Think about having a Jewish host on this show who can bring these issues of antisemitism, who can bring these issues of representation to ‘The View’ every single day,” he said.
Ms. Goldberg, 66, did not mention having a Jewish background, as she has in the past. She has said in interviews that she does not practice any religion but identifies as Jewish and adopted her distinctive stage name partly because of that. She was born Caryn Johnson.
In 1994, Ms. Goldberg mentioned her ties to Judaism in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel, after the Anti-Defamation League criticized a recipe that she contributed to a charity cookbook for “Jewish American princess fried chicken.” The title was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, she said.
“I am a Jewish-American princess,” she told the newspaper. “That’s probably what bothers people most. It’s not my problem people are uncomfortable with the fact that I’m Jewish.”
This week, the criticism of Ms. Goldberg’s remarks was intense. Before he was invited onto “The View,” Mr. Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League wrote on Twitter: “No @WhoopiGoldberg, the #Holocaust was about the Nazi’s systematic annihilation of the Jewish people – who they deemed to be an inferior race. They dehumanized them and used this racist propaganda to justify slaughtering 6 million Jews. Holocaust distortion is dangerous.”And Mrs. Goldberg’s former co-host, Meghan McCain, said on Twitter on Monday that antisemitism was “a poison that is increasingly excused in our culture and television — and permeates in spaces that should shock us all.”
According to a 2014 report by the Anti-Defamation League, more than one billion people globally hold antisemitic views. More than a third of people in the 102 countries polled had never heard of the Holocaust, the report found.
Jewish communities around the world have indicated an increase in annual antisemitic incidents, according to research by the Anti-Defamation League. That feeling is pronounced in Europe, where 89 percent of Jews felt that antisemitism in their countries had increased between 2013 and 2018, according to a 2018 European Union survey of about 16,500 Jewish people.
The survey also found that 40 percent of European Jews worried about being physically attacked, and across 12 E.U. countries where Jews have been living for centuries, more than a third said they were considering emigrating because they no longer felt safe as Jews.
Last month, the United Nations adopted a resolution that condemns denial and distortion of the Holocaust. Ms. Goldberg’s comments also came weeks after a gunman held several people hostage at a Texas synagogue for 11 hours.
David Baddiel, a British comedian and the author of the book “Jews Don’t Count,” said in an interview that antisemitism has very little to do with religion itself — descendants of Jewish people who had converted to Christianity were also killed in the Holocaust because they were viewed as members of the Jewish race.
“If you are a race, an ethnicity, as Jews are, that have suffered persecution over many, many centuries, principally because that happens to be who you are, happens to be who your parents are, happens to be who your ancestors are, then that is racism,” Mr. Baddiel said.
“There is no other word for it.”