Pittsburgh Mayor: ‘Words Matter’ in Rhetoric Debate Over White Nationalism

FILE - In this Aug. 12, 2017 file photo, white nationalist demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va. The leader of a Southern California white supremacist group and three other members have been arrested weeks after indictments of other group members for allegedly inciting the riot last year in Charlottesville, Virginia. U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek says Rise Above Movement leader Robert Rundo was arrested Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport and is expected in Los Angeles federal court Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (
Image: AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

Mayor Bill Peduto and the ADL address rhetoric debate over President Trump’s condemning of White Nationalism as federal representatives call for more hearings on hate crimes.

After the October 27th mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, where 11 were killed and six injured, including four police officers, Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh announced in an open letter:

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism”

The day after the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting, Mayor Bill Peduto appeared on Meet the Press. He took the opportunity to speak about policy approaches to hate crimes prevention and address gun control. When asked about the rhetoric in his city, he indicated he didn’t feel or was aware of hateful rhetoric on the rise there.

He also answered that it was “up to the families” if Trump should participate in a potential memorial for the lives lost in the weekend’s mass shooting.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted his thoughts on the subject of rhetoric and shared a link about hate crimes violence:

The President and First Lady Melania Trump are scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh tomorrow to address the tragedy, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a White House press briefing that followed formal charges against shooting suspect Robert Bowers.

Editor’s Note: Update October 30, 2018. CNN reports that Mayor Peduto’s sole focus during today’s Presidential visit “is on the funerals and supporting the families,” said Communications Director Tim McNulty. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has also declined to meet with Trump this week. Also traveling with the Trumps are his daughter Ivanka Trump, and husband Jared Kushner. Congressional leadership in both the House and Senate have also declined, as has Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey. Senator Bob Casey was reportedly not extended a White House invitation.

White Supremacy Groups Follow Trump

Also supporting the Pittsburgh Jewish leaders position is Oren Segal, director of ADL’s Center on Extremism. He went live on CBS News in advance of the White House press briefing and said he agreed with the leaders that the President should condemn white supremacy.

Last month the Center published the report, “The Changing Face of American White Supremacy” (review and download report, below) which reviews how white nationalist groups are “inextricably connected in numerous ways to the Trump campaign and presidency.” The paper includes a review of Trump’s statements after the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville at a Unite the Right rally to support the link to significant real-world consequences:

Two days later, Trump issued a second statement more explicitly mentioning the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists ‘and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.’ However, the next day, in response to a reporter’s question, Trump once again claimed that there was “blame on both sides” and “very fine people on both sides.”

The press briefing, which began with an emotional reading about the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting event as well as President Trump’s familial Jewish ties, featured questions about Trump specifically denouncing “white nationalism.”

Sanders didn’t specify those words, but indicated the President had already done so and reviewed some past event-related condemnations.

She also said twice during the briefing that it was “outrageous” that the media’s reaction was to blame Trump for the shooting as well as for about a dozen pipe bombs being sent through the mail by suspect Cesar Sayoc.

Call for Emergency Hearings on Hate Crimes

According to ABC News, democrats called on Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, House Judiciary Committee Chair, to hold emergency hearings on hate crimes and domestic terrorism after the synagogue attack, bomb threats and Kentucky supermarket attack.

The Senate Judiciary held hearings in May 2017 on hate crimes, and some senators offered statements in the first session that address rhetoric, such as that of Illinois Senator Richard J. Durbin:

We need to condemn rhetoric that demeans our diverse communities and sows bias and suspicion. We need to provide the resources and tools necessary to assist law enforcement as they work to investigate, reduce and prevent these crimes — and ensure that when these crimes do occur, they are reported. We must ensure that the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are aggressively enforcing hate-crimes laws and working with state and local law enforcement to improve hate-crime reporting and prevent hate crimes from taking place in the first instance. And we need to demonstrate through action that we are a nation of tolerance, inclusiveness and respect.”

Review and download ADL’s New Hate & Old report:

New Hate and Old the Changing Face of American White Supremacy 2018 by Ed Praetorian on Scribd


About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.