President Trump responds to Tree of Life massacre


Ken Cedeno/Sipa USA/Abaca Press/Pool/TNS

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base on his way to Indianapolis on Saturday. Trump spoke to reporters about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill.

By Jon Moss, Staff Writer

After 11 Pittsburghers were killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill Saturday morning, President Donald Trump publicly renounced the act and pledged his support to the victims.

The president responded to the incident on Twitter at at 11:08 a.m, about an hour after the first shots were fired around 9:50 a.m.

“Watching the events unfolding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Law enforcement on the scene,” the president said in a post on the social network. “People in Squirrel Hill area should remain sheltered. Looks like multiple fatalities. Beware of active shooter. God Bless All!”

Shortly after, the president prepared to fly to Indianapolis from the White House for a pre-scheduled 3 p.m. appearance at the 91st annual Future Farmers of America Convention and Expo.

Before departing to the event on the waiting Air Force One, Trump told gathered reporters that gun laws weren’t to blame for the shooting.

“If they had protection inside … the results would have been far better. This is a dispute that will always exist, I suspect,” Trump said to reporters. “But if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple … maybe it could have been a very much different situation, but they didn’t.”

When asked about Trump’s response to the shooting, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told reporters at a Saturday press conference that he didn’t agree with the president’s view of what could have prevented the tragedy.

“We’re dealing with irrational behavior. There’s no way you can rationalize a person walking into a synagogue during services and taking the lives of 11 people,” Peduto said. “I think the approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns, which is common denominator of every mass shooting in America, out of the hands of those that are looking to express hatred through murder.”

Once arriving in Indianapolis for the convention, the president further condemned the shooting as a violent anti-Semitic deed in his remarks, according to Vox.

“This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil, hard to believe and, frankly, something that is unimaginable,” Trump said. “There must be no tolerance for anti-Semitism in America or for any form of religious or racial hatred or prejudice.”

The president also issued a presidential proclamation on the White House’s website ordering all White House flags as well as those on public grounds to half-staff until sunset on Oct. 31.

Trump then traveled to Murphysboro, Illinois, at about 5 p.m. for a “Make America Great Again” rally to campaign for Republican Rep. Mike Bost, who is running for re-election in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District.

“This evil Anti-Semitic attack is an assault on humanity. It will take all of us working together to extract the poison of Anti-Semitism from our world. We must unite to conquer hate,” the president said in a tweet while en route to the rally.

Trump also justified maintaining his rigorous schedule to campaign on behalf of Republicans before the upcoming midterm elections Nov. 6.

“We cannot let our schedule or our lives change,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post.

While speaking at the rally, the president said he would travel to Pittsburgh, according to The Washington Post. He did not not offer any further information about when such a trip would occur or what he would do in Pittsburgh, but added that he was in contact with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Peduto.

But not all Pittsburghers want the president to come to town.

The Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish political group, released an open letter on Sunday night requesting the president not visit the City based on his administration’s agenda.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted,” the letter said. “You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

In a study published in February, The Anti-Defamation League — an organization that works to fight against anti-Semitism — found that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 57 percent in 2017 after Trump’s election.

The letter continued by listing other criticisms of the president’s actions and concluded with telling the president to stay out of the City.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us,” the letter said.