Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump on Saturday amid criticism that the divisive rhetoric pouring from the White House had influenced the mass pipe bomb mailings sent to prominent Democrats or the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh last week.
“Everyone has their own style, and frankly, people on both sides of the aisle use strong language about our political differences,” Pence said on NBC News Saturday. “But I just don’t think you can connect it to acts or threats of violence.”
Pence made the remarks after Saturday’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, in which 11 people were killed and six wounded. The incident was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
In the interview with NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard, Pence denounced the shooting and said that the country has “no tolerance for the kind of anti-Semitic violence that reared its ugly head today.” But he also defended the often-explosive language used by Trump, maintaining that the president “connected to the American people because he spoke plainly.”
United States of America is reeling from a shocking week of threats and attacks after Cesar Sayoc, 56, was arrested for allegedly mailing at least a dozen packages containing likely pipe bombs to prominent Trump critics. Days later, 11 people were gunned down inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh during Saturday services. Robert Bowers, 46, has been accused of that crime and reportedly walked into the building yelling, “All Jews must die,” before opening fire.
Pence this weekend rebuffed claims that such behavior had in any way influenced the attacks, even amid calls from Jewish leaders that the White House tone down its inflammatory remarks.
“We want a free and open political debate in America where everyone expresses themselves passionately and openly – but also recognize the difference between passionate debate and acts of violence and evil,” Pence said.
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called the shooting “a pure act of evil.”
“You’ve heard that from the president and vice president yesterday; that’s what it is,” she said. “We all condemn this in the strongest terms possible.”
Both Trump and Pence have denounced the attacks and called for national unity in the face of such horrors.