On Monday morning, the hosts of Fox & Friends—Donald Trump’s favorite unofficial advisers— came to the president’s defense after many have suggested his heated rhetoric and stoking of far-right flames led to the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead over the weekend.
“I was just stunned to see how quick everyone was blaming the president and his tone for what happened,” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said. “It’s just crazy to make that leap and get politics into this.”
The alleged shooter, Robert Bowers, 46, entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday morning, reportedly shouting “all Jews must die” before opening fire. He also posted violent threats and anti-Semitic, wholly unverified conspiracy theories claiming Jews are bankrolling a civilizational “invasion” by immigrants, such as those currently traveling through Central America by caravan.
“This guy was not a Trump supporter, first of all,” Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said Monday. Indeed, Bowers reportedly wrote on Gab, a far-right social-media site, that “Trump is a globalist, not a nationalist,” and that “There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation.”
Earhardt added that Vice President Mike Pence claimed that “strong language” comes from both sides of the aisle.
Co-host Steve Doocy, reiterating a statement he multiple times throughout the hour, went even further, blaming the media for even remotely connecting the president’s rhetoric to Bowers, who regularly posted online about killing Jews.
“This guy, the shooter, hated Trump because he thought the president was a globalist, he did not vote for him, he never owned a MAGA hat. And yet you saw that kinda reaction all day yesterday,” Doocy said.
Doocy was paraphrasing conservative columnist Howie Carr’s Sunday piece at the Boston Herald, which claimed that the media should “zip their lips” because “the alleged shooter hated Trump, thought he was a ‘globalist,’ didn’t vote for him, never owned a MAGA hat. You could look it up.”
Carr later wrote that Trump can’t possibly be anti-Semitic because his daughter Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism and is raising her children—the president’s grandchildren—as Jewish.
And as The Daily Beast’s Jay Michaelson wrote, Trump is “almost certainly not” an anti-Semite, however, “he is either unwilling or unable to see how his vicious rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims supports a right-wing movement that also hates Jews. He is unwilling or unable to see how his furious midnight tweets and shouted insults at rallies encourage tens of millions of Americans to be enraged at the media, Hollywood, and ‘elites’—all of which, in anti-Semitic imagination, are disproportionately Jewish.”
The president himself responded to claims that his rhetoric fueled the mass shooting, firing off a trio of tweets on Monday morning. Trump went after the “fake news” media for blaming him and his base for a lack of response to the anti-Semitic shooting.
“The Fake News is doing everything in their power to blame Republicans, Conservatives and me for the division and hatred that has been going on for so long in our Country,” Trump tweeted. “Actually, it is their Fake & Dishonest reporting which is causing problems far greater than they understand!”
He added the “great anger” that has spurred the slew of violent acts the past week—also including the 13 pipe bombs mailed by a Trump supporter to prominent critics of the president—are actually inspired, “by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” and not hateful political rhetoric.
“The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly,” he wrote, adding that when “fake news” stops, “peace and harmony” will bring both sides together.
The defense from Trump’s favorite conservative cable program came moments after Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to President Trump, said on the show that the synagogue massacre was caused by “anti-religiosity.”
“The anti-religiosity in this country, that is somehow in vogue and funny to make fun of anyone of faith, to constantly be making fun of people who express religion, the late night comedians, the unfunny people on TV shows,” she said, after being asked if Trump’s rhetoric has encouraged violence. “It’s always anti-religious.”