President Donald Trump plans to visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday, four days after an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue, and after pushback from Jewish leaders in the city who noted Trump’s promotion of white nationalism, a core part of his political rise.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president and first lady Melania Trump plan to “grieve with the Pittsburgh community,” despite opposition from local Jewish leaders and the city’s mayor.
Shortly before Huckabee Sanders announced the visit, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D) said the White House should consult with the families of the victims before arranging the visit, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
He also added that Trump’s visit should not occur “while we are burying the dead” because it would take away attention and resources from the victims and their families.
“Our attention and focus is going to be on them, and we don’t have Public Safety [police] that we can take away from what is needed in order to be at both,” Peduto said.
The first funerals for the shooting victims are set to begin Tuesday, according to Pittsburgh NPR affiliate WESA.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh leaders of a progressive Jewish organization called Bend the Arc published an open letter urging Trump not to visit “until you fully denounce white nationalism,” “stop targeting and endangering all minorities,” “cease your assault on immigrants and refugees,” and “commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.”
Asked about the letter at Monday’s White House press briefing, Huckabee Sanders claimed that Trump — who blamed last summer’s white nationalist-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on “both sides” and has regularly denigrated minorities and immigrants — “has denounced racism, hatred and bigotry in all forms on a number of occasions and will continue to do that.”
At a campaign rally last week, Trump declared himself a “nationalist,” embracing a term commonly used by white supremacist and anti-Semitic hate groups.
This story has been updated with information about the funerals for the shooting victims and additional information about the letter from Jewish leaders.