A number of Jewish organizations had called on Donald Trump not to visit the site of the deadly synagogue shooting by anti-Semite Robert Bowers which left 11 people dead on Saturday, but the president went anyway. As if to drive the point home, not a single elected Republican turned up by Trump’s side when he went to Pittsburgh on Tuesday amidst protest to commemorate the victims, reports Salon.
According to the publication, Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Pat Toomey, as well as GOP members of the House, refused to join Trump. Instead, he was joined by wife Melania, son-in-law Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka, and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin. It appears Trump was seeking to soften the blow by taking Jewish people (Kushner and Munchin are both Jewish) along with him, but that didn’t deter a wave of protesters from gathering at the site. As Newsweek reports, nearly 2,000 protesters assembled at the Tree of Life synagogue holding signs which read everything from “President Hate, Leave Our State,” “Trump, Renounce White Nationalism Now,” “Words Matter,” to “Strength through Unity,” “Watch Your Words,” and “Hate does not work in our Neighborhoods.”
Trump and first lady Melania placed stones on Star of David memorials that had been set up for each of the victims, but that didn’t seem to please the supporters, who doubted the president’s intentions. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later revealed that the wife of one of the injured law enforcement officers told Trump that she was relieved by his visit, but that feeling appeared at odds with what was wholly evident at the site of Saturday’s massacre.
— Cecilia Vega (@CeciliaVega) October 30, 2018
We will not be political props for white nationalists.
We will #EndWhiteNationalism.
— IfNotNow???? (@IfNotNowOrg) October 30, 2018
A number of major Jewish community leaders had written to Trump asking him to cancel his condolence visit, writing in a letter that “for the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence. President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.”
It is probable that anticipating a backlash, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who is a Democrat) declined to join Trump for the visit. While most GOP members claimed a conflict in schedules as their reason for not visiting the synagogue, the refusal by GOP members to join Trump seems more than simply a symbolic gesture.