Before his visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, Donald Trump defended a teenager who shot two anti-racism protesters dead in the city last week. The president also compared the actions of a white Kenosha police officer who shot at a Black victim seven times in the back to a golfer choking on a putt.
The Democratic governor of Wisconsin and the mayor of Kenosha both urged Trump to stay away from the city, where many have marched to protest the shooting last month of Jacob Blake by officer Rusten Sheskey. Partially paralyzed, Blake remains in the hospital.
In an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday night, Trump compared Sheskey to a golfer missing a putt.
“Shooting the guy – shooting the guy in the back many times, I mean, couldn’t you have done something different, couldn’t you have wrestled him?” Trump said.
“You know, I mean, in the meantime he might’ve been going for a weapon and you know, there’s a whole big thing there. But they choke. Just like in a golf tournament. They miss a 3-foot putt”
Ingraham, a prominent Trump supporter who spoke at the 2016 Republican convention, cut the president off abruptly.
“You’re not comparing it to golf, because that’s what the media [will say],” she said.
“I’m saying people choke,” Trump replied. “People choke.”
In Kenosha, Trump did not plan to meet with family members of Blake, whose father Jacob Blake Sr has emerged as a powerful voice for justice in the shooting. Sheskey is on administrative leave and has not been charged with a crime.
Trump planned to meet local law enforcement and “survey damage”, the White House said. But Trump’s critics said he was traveling to Wisconsin in an effort to do more damage, hoping to inflame racial tensions and twist the nature of anti-racism protests in an effort to scare white suburban voters into a stampede in his direction.
In a speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, Democratic nominee Joe Biden asked: “Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected? We need justice in America. We need safety in America. We’re facing multiple crises, crises that, under Donald Trump, have kept multiplying.”
Two days after protests in Kenosha began, the teenager Kyle Rittenhouse came to the scene with a semi-automatic rifle and shot two people dead, prosecutors say. But in remarks to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump refused to condemn the gunman.
“We’re looking at all of it,” he said. “And that was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation.”
The first person Rittenhouse killed was shot in the back, prosecutors say. Rittenhouse has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and reckless homicide.
Wisconsin governor Tony Evers asked Trump to stay away.
“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing,” Evers wrote. “I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
The Kenosha mayor, John Antaramian, said Trump’s timing was wrong.
“It just seemed to me and I think others that it would be better for us to be able to pull together, let the community get together and actually heal up the process of what’s going on,” Antaramian told reporters.
“So it would have been nice if it had waited a while a little longer down the road.”