President Trump’s harsh campaign rhetoric ahead of next week's midterm elections is a major factor that lead to the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, according to many in the news media.
After the Saturday shooting left 11 dead and several more injured, journalists and commentators at major news outlets seized on the incident as evidence that Trump had inspired violence.
Much of the reasoning rests on Trump’s repeated targeting of a migrant “caravan” of thousands of Central American people making its way up to the U.S.-Mexico border in order to claim asylum. Trump has called the caravan a potential “invasion” and a “national emergency,” though some high-profile conservatives have suggested it’s a part of a conspiracy funded by liberal philanthropist George Soros, a Holocaust survivor.
The synagogue shooter, identified as 48-year-old Robert Bowers, reportedly yelled “all Jews must die” when he opened fire on the synagogue, and some in the media said that was enough to tie Trump to the incident, despite Trump's support for Israel and his daughter and adviser Ivanka's conversion to Judiasm.
“You can draw a direct line from all of the vitriol and hate rhetoric about the caravan that’s some 2,000 miles away from our border and the gunman in Pittsburgh, who referenced that, and somehow turned it into an attack on Jews,” CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota said Monday.
GQ magazine correspondent Julia Ioffe wrote Sunday in the Washington Post that even if Trump is not directly the cause of the shooting or the suspicious packages delivered to high-profile Democrats around the country last week, “the pipe-bomb makers and synagogue shooters and racists who mowed a woman down in Charlottesville were never even looking for Trump’s explicit blessing, because they knew the president had allowed bigots like them to go about their business…”
She added, “His role is just to set the tone. Their role is to do the rest.”
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough criticized Trump for holding a campaign rally in Illinois on Saturday, the same day that the shooting took place, and said that showed Trump doesn't care about the shooting as much as he claims.
“[T[hat was done intentionally to send a message to white nationalists: ‘this doesn’t bug me that much,’” said Scarborough.
Robert Bowers, the synagogue shooter, was a fierce critic of Trump, and wrote online that he believed Trump was a “globalist” and that the president’s “make America great again” slogan could not be realized “as long as there is a k--e infestation.”
But the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer insisted that the “apparent spark” for the shooting was the caravan story, “inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election” and that “no political gesture, no public statement, and no alteration in rhetoric or behavior … will change this fact.”
Liberal New York Times columnist Charles Blow allowed that “homicidal maniacs are responsible for their own actions,” but still insisted that there’s “no way to separate Trump from the fulminating against the caravans.”
And Washington Post opinion editor Ruth Marcus said, “If there is not cause and effect between Trump’s language and Bowers’s alleged actions, there is moral culpability for creating this overheated climate of fear.”
Suggestions that Trump played a role in the shooting prompted Trump to fire back Monday that it's the "fraudulent" press that's stoking anger around the country.