But when Trump started to rant about the need for harsher death penalty laws, Peduto had enough.
“I’m literally standing two blocks from 11 bodies right now. Really?” Peduto told the Washington Post. Peduto said he felt numb and that Trump’s focus on the death penalty would do nothing to bring back the 11 people who were killed when a far-right gunman burst into their synagogue and opened fire.
“I ended the conversation pretty quickly after that.”
Donald Trump has been widely criticized both for his response to the shooting and the incendiary rhetoric that many believe contributed to it. The alleged gunman had expressed disdain for Donald Trump as he believed that Trump was under the sway of Jewish interests but also bought into far-right anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that opponents say Trump helped to push forward.
Peduto and other Pittsburgh leaders have urged a sense of unity in the wake of the mass shooting, and a group of local Jewish leaders wrote an open letter to Trump asking that he not come to the city until he was willing to denounce white nationalists.
Trump ultimately did come to Pittsburgh, and Peduto said his presence caused unnecessary unrest in the city.
“It could have been avoided,” Peduto said of the protests in the city against Trump’s visit.
“He could have chosen to go to the Holocaust Museum and lay a wreath with his wife. Or put together a fund in order to memorialize the 11 people whose lives were lost for perpetuity, in the museum.”
Others have been more direct in placing blame on Donald Trump’s fiery rhetoric. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers in a sermon this week took aim at politicians who spread hatred and said he told that to Trump directly.
“I said to him, ‘Mr. President, hate speech leads to hateful actions. Hate speech leads to what happened in my sanctuary, where seven of my congregants were slaughtered,” Myers told CNN. “I witnessed it with my eyes,” he added.
Others criticized Trump for focusing on the death penalty and for suggesting that if the synagogue had an armed gunman it could have prevented the massacre.
Trump called Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto while he was still processing the massacre. Trump veered directly into policy, Peduto recalled to WaPo, insisting on discussing death penalty legislation. Peduto was stunned into silence, ended the call soon after. https://t.co/n66Dgzkft6
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 5, 2018
Donald Trump has pushed back against suggestions that his rhetoric may have led to violence, saying instead that it is the fault of the media.