President Donald Trump on Wednesday used the grief surrounding the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh to promote a GOP congressman running in Pennsylvania, one day after visiting the city despite calls from local leaders asking him not to come.
“Yesterday in Pittsburgh I was really impressed with Congressman Keith Rothfus (far more so than any other local political figure),” the president tweeted Wednesday afternoon, boosting the Republican representative.
“His sincere level of compassion, grief and sorrow for the events that took place, in its own way, very inspiring,” he added. “Vote for Keith!”
Rothfus, who currently represents the state’s 12th Congressional District, is running against Rep. Conor Lamb (D) in the left-leaning 17th Congressional District, due to a redistricting ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Lamb is favored to win the district.
Trump’s visit to the Tree of Life synagogue memorials was marked with controversy as protesters and local leaders urged the president to cancel his trip.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, asked Trump not to come on Tuesday “while we are burying the dead,” so the attention would remain on the first set of funerals that were scheduled for the victims.
City Councilman Corey O’Connor, who joined demonstrators during their protest of Trump’s visit, told CNN’s “Situation Room” that it was inappropriate for the president to plan his trip during the funerals.
“We’re sort of saying, ‘Now is not the time.’ Today, we were grieving, we’re going to be grieving for the next few weeks, and today wasn’t a time to draw more national attention to us,” O’Connor said.
Thousands of protesters crowded the streets of Pittsburgh to denounce Trump’s arrival on Tuesday. According to White House press pool reports, the protesters could be heard in the distance as the Trumps paid their respects at the synagogue memorial.
Signs at the demonstration criticized Trump’s divisive rhetoric, reading, “Words have meaning,” and, “No more hate.”
The president, however, had a different account of his visit.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh. The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day.”
“Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away,” he added. “The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!”
Four members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had declined the White House’s invitation to join the president on his trip to Pittsburgh, citing various reasons, The Washington Post reported.
Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) also declined an invitation, according to PIX 11.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) declined an invitation to join Trump.