President Trump will visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday to show support for victims of the city’s deadly synagogue shooting.
A White House spokeswoman dismissed suggestions that Trump’s rhetoric has contributed to a hostile climate in the country. She said Trump won’t shy away from drawing distinctions with Democrats in the final week before the midterm elections.
“The American people reject hatred, bigotry, prejudice and violence,” press secretary Sarah Sanders declared, two days after a gunman shot and killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. “We are a nation that believes in religious liberty, tolerance, and respect.”
In a voice breaking with emotion, Sanders noted that Trump’s daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are Jewish.
“Anti-Semitism is a plague to humanity,” Sanders said. “We all have a duty to confront anti-Semitism in all its forms and everywhere and anywhere it appears.”
Trump has drawn criticism in some quarters for his outspoken attacks on Democrats and a caravan of Central American migrants traveling toward the U.S. The suspect in the Pittsburgh shooting had complained on social media about an influx of refugees.
Sanders rejected the suggestion that Trump’s divisive language might have inspired the synagogue shooter, or a Florida man accused of sending homemade pipe bombs to prominent Democrats.
“The only person responsible for carrying out either of these heinous acts were the individuals who carried them out,” she said.
Trump temporarily toned down his campaign rhetoric in response to the pipe-bomb investigation and the Pittsburgh shooting. But with just over a week before the votes are counted in the midterm elections, Sanders said the president would continue to push back vigorously against his political opponents.
“The president is going to continue to draw contrasts,” Sanders said, noting that Democrats had been equally vocal in criticizing Trump. “The president is going to continue to fight back.”
She also defended the president’s attacks on the news media, which Trump has accused of fueling division in society, and insisted Trump has played an important, healing role in times of national tragedy.
“Every time our country has experienced the type of heartache and pain that we have over the last week, this is a president who has risen to that occasion,” Sanders said.