Hours after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in suburban San Diego, killing one person and injuring three more before he was arrested, President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitism during a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“Tonight, America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in Poway, California — just happened,” Trump said at the start of his speech. “Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated.”
The gunman, whom authorities identified as 19-year-old John Earnest, reportedly posted an anti-Semitic letter hours before the shooting in Poway.
Trump went on to praise law enforcement officials who responded to the scene of the shooting and vowed, “we will get to the bottom of it. We’re gonna get to the bottom of a lot of things happening in this country.”
The president then proceeded with a campaign-style speech in which he referred to FBI and DOJ agents that have been forced out of government during his tenure as “scum,” basked in “lock her up!” chants directed toward Hillary Clinton, and falsely accused Democrats of supporting the execution of babies.
Trump begins by saying that "America's heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in Poway, California." One day after defending neo-Nazis, he condemns anti-Semitism. pic.twitter.com/IJIyScMulU— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 28, 2019
Trump’s Saturday night rally was meant as counter-programming to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner back in Washington, DC. One year after she was memorably roasted at the annual dinner, Sarah Sanders appeared onstage with Trump.
“Last year this night I was at a slightly different event, not quite the best welcome,” Sanders said. “So this is an amazing honor.”
Trump, for his past, blasted the media that was in Green Bay to cover his speech as “sick people.”
Trump’s denunciation of anti-Semitism at the rally came a day after he went out of his way to again defend the white supremacists who marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 — a weekend that resulted in the murder of a counter-demonstrator named Heather Heyer.
During a question-and-answer session with reporters on Friday, Trump was asked if he still thinks there were “very fine people” on both sides of the Charlottesville rallies — a question prompted by a video released Thursday by Joe Biden announcing his presidential bid that was centered around Trump’s comments.
Trump responded to the question by defending the widely denounced false equivalency he drew between white supremacists and people who were in Charlottesville protesting white supremacy.
“I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general,” Trump said. “Whether you like it or not he was one of the great generals... People were there protesting the taking down of the monument.”
Asked if he still thinks there were "very fine people" on both sides of the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Trump says, "I was talking about people that went b/c they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E Lee. A great general, whether you like it or not" pic.twitter.com/D7O5vFWy29— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 26, 2019
While it may have been the case that some people were in Charlottesville demonstrating that weekend merely because they felt aggrieved about a Confederate monument being taken down, many others walked through the streets chanting “Jews will not replace us.” And as my colleague Jane Coaston explained on Friday, what “Unite the Right” was really about was never in doubt.
Unite the Right was explicitly organized and branded as a far-right, racist, and white supremacist event by far-right racist white supremacists. This was clear for months before the march actually occurred. So by casting the rally instead as a sort of spontaneous outpouring from Confederate statue enthusiasts, Trump is rewriting history.
The Poway shooter reportedly used an AR-15 style weapon to carry out his attack. In a news conference after the shooting, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore told reporters that “there’s indications that his gun might’ve malfunctioned after firing numerous rounds.” But during Trump’s speech on Saturday — one that came a day after he addressed the NRA — the president stoked fears about Democrats wanting “to take your guns away.”
Hours after a gunman opened fire with an AR-15-style weapon at a synagogue, Trump fear-mongers about Democrats wanting "to take your guns away." pic.twitter.com/HgPFS6llXi— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 28, 2019
The Poway shooting came on the last day of Passover, and exactly six months after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11.
According to NBC, the Poway shooter’s manifesto indicates he does not support Trump, citing Trump’s support of Israel.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece mentioned that Fox News, during a news segment about the shooting, cut off a guest who criticized President Trump for his comments about Charlottesville. The interview with the guest in fact continued later during the program.