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.
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 — on the basis that they were an inferior race.
After her comments prompted widespread criticism, Ms. Goldberg apologized. “The Jewish people around the world have always had my support,” she said in a statement posted on Monday night. “I’m sorry for the hurt I have caused.”
In an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” on Monday, Ms. Goldberg explained 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.”
Jewish groups said Ms. Goldberg’s comments were dangerous and the latest example of growing ignorance about the Nazi genocide. The chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, wrote on Twitter of the Nazis: “They dehumanized them and used this racist propaganda to justify slaughtering 6 million Jews,” he said. “Holocaust distortion is dangerous.”
Meghan McCain, a former co-host of “The View,” 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.”