The mayor of Pittsburgh told Donald Trump to wait. Local religious leaders asked Trump to wait. Politicians in both parties begged Trump to wait. Tens of thousands of local residents told Trump not to come at all until he was ready to completely disown the white nationalist agenda that contributed to the mass murder at Tree of Life Synagogue. Still, Trump thought that doing a photo shoot in Pittsburgh as the families of 11 victims were getting ready for funerals was a good idea. And, as everyone except Trump predicted, his presence in the city generated anger and disruption on a day that was already so difficult for so many.
As the Washington Post reports, not a single politician on the left or right would agree to meet Trump when he landed in Pittsburgh. But 2,000 protesters were there, urging him to go back to Washington and leave the grieving city alone.
Protesters upset by Trump’s embrace of the term “Nationalist” and frequent use of the term “globalists” for his opponents—a word generally used by white supremacists in contending that the world is secretly controlled by a powerful group of Jewish elite. But they were equally upset about Trump’s response to the shooting. Pausing on his way to address an agricultural group, Trump repeatedly blamed the victims of the shooting for not being armed inside their own synagogue.
Trump: [Gun laws] had little to do with it. If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. … if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, ahhh, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn't.
The White House tried to enlist the support of Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto for Trump’s visit, but Peduto refused to meet Trump at the airport or appear with him at other sites. Instead, Peduto insisted that “all attention should be on the victims.”
Except Trump is never happy unless the attention is focused on him. Even if that means crashing a funeral.
Trump’s failure to secure anyone to provide cover for his trip further compounded confusion that had his schedule changing minute by minute, providing security concerns and disruptions across the city. Even after he was on the ground, Trump’s representatives were still pestering family members of the victims, some of them starting on the first round of funerals.
The family of one of those victims — Daniel Stein, 71 — declined a visit with Trump in part because of Trump’s comments about having armed guards.
“Everybody feels that they were inappropriate,” said Stephen Halle, Stein’s nephew. “He was blaming the community.”
Trump’s remarks before the shooting helped work up the anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic fervor that brought murderer Robert Bowers to Tree of Life on Saturday. Trump’s victim-blaming in the immediate aftermath only deepened the pain for those dealing with the aftermath.
In the wake of the shooting and over a dozen bombs delivered by a Trump supporter whose actions were triggered by a false narrative tying the movement of immigrants to Jewish investor George Soros, neither Trump nor the GOP have stepped back from the lies that are driving the violence. The GOP is continuing to back and defend ads painting Soros as the source of all ills. Trump has introduced a last-minute ploy to rob millions of Americans of their citizenship at the stoke of a pen.
A letter from local religious leaders and signed by thousands asked Trump not to come to Pittsburgh until he denounced nationalism. Obviously, that didn’t happen. And isn’t going to happen. Trump is willing to offend mourning families, but not his white nationalist base.
Trump went to Pittsburgh. And what it accomplished was nothing more than showing that Trump can’t stand a story where he’s not the center of attention—even when that story is families trying to grieve their relatives.