President Donald Trump used Dayton shooting victims and first responders as mere political props during his visit Wednesday, Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper charged.
“Ohio, our communities and our families are not props, Mr. President,” Pepper said in a statement Wednesday night.
“This is not a TV show. To treat them as such, while unleashing orchestrated and false attacks against respected community leaders at the very moment they are working 24/7 to recover and heal, is despicable behavior.”
After barring journalists from hospital visits in both Dayton and El Paso, Texas, saying they weren’t designed to be “photo ops,” the White House released a video set to music of Trump and the first lady making the rounds in Dayton, which Trump tweeted. It also released several photos of Trump in both settings.
“Within hours [of the Dayton visit], the White House released a campaign-style video which made it clear that the reason the entire visit was closed to the press was because this was more about a television shoot than a sincere visit to a grieving community,” Pepper said.
Blasting mayor, senator
The hospital visit already was a source of controversy. A couple of hours after Trump visited first responders and survivors of Sunday’s shooting in Dayton, he blasted Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. The two Democrats accompanied the president through Miami Valley Hospital and, at a news conference, credited Trump with bringing comfort to the victims recovering there. Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, did the same.
During a news conference with Brown, Whaley said the victims and first responders were grateful the president came to Dayton. Brown said Trump “was comforting. He did the right things and Melania did the right things. It’s his job to comfort people. I’m glad he did it.”
But Trump tweeted from Air Force One: “Just left Dayton, Ohio, where I met with the Victims & families, Law Enforcement, Medical Staff & First Responders. It was a warm & wonderful visit. Tremendous enthusiasm & even Love. Then I saw failed Presidential Candidate (0%) Sherrod Brown & Mayor Whaley totally misrepresenting what took place inside of the hospital. Their news conference after I left for El Paso was a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place with those incredible people that I was so lucky to meet and spend time with. They were all amazing!”
Trump also bashed former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate who condemned Trump for having “fanned the flames of white supremacy” in America. The president tweeted: “Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring! The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy.”
Earlier, White House social media director Dan Scavino had tweeted, “Very SAD to see Ohio Senator Brown, & Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley - LYING & completely mischaracterizing what took place w/ the President’s visit to Miami Valley Hospital today. They are disgraceful politicians, doing nothing but politicizing a mass shooting, at every turn they can.”
When she learned of the tweets, Whaley said: “I’m really confused. We said he was treated very well. I don’t know what he’s talking about misrepresenting.
"Oh well. He lives in his world of Twitter.”
Later, the mayor told CNN: “I’ve known and watched President Trump’s Twitter feed for a while. He’s a bully and a coward. And it’s fine that he wants to bully me and Sen. Brown. We’re OK. We can take it. But the citizens of Dayton deserve action.”
Evan Machan, communications director for the Ohio Republican Party, said: “Yesterday, instead of coming together in a time of national disaster, Sherrod Brown and Nan Whaley chose to use divisive rhetoric to attack President Trump and Senator McConnell. Our communities are hurting. We need unity. We need to heal.
“Sherrod Brown and Nan Whaley are getting a free pass at a time like this. They need to be held accountable for further dividing our nation when we need unity now more than ever. President Trump is focused on bringing people together during these tragedies, it is shameful that Brown and Whaley have chosen party (over) country.
Whaley attended a news conference Thursday with Ohio GOP Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association to announce a pediatric mental health summit next month in Dayton.
Pushing the president
During their Wednesday news conference, Whaley and Brown emphasized they pressed the president to take action on gun violence.
When Trump told local law enforcement officers he hoped to give them an award for their quick response, Brown said he jumped in and told the president “the most important thing you can do for these police officers is take assault weapons off the street so they don’t have to go up against those assault weapons.” The Ohio Democrat urged Trump to tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to call the Senate back into emergency session this week.
Whaley, who wanted Brown to run for president, said she also pushed Trump for more restrictions on guns.
“I’m not holding my breath,” she said. “The people in the city of Dayton are really looking for action.”
Whaley said it was a “good decision” for Trump not to stop in the city’s Oregon District, where the shooting occurred early Sunday and many are angry that officials have so far refused to “do something!”
“A lot of times his talk can be very divisive, and that’s the last thing that Dayton needs today,” Whaley said.
During the hospital tour, Trump told some of those wounded in the attack that “You had God watching. I want you to know we’re with you all the way,” Trump’s press secretary tweeted.
And Scavino added via Twitter: “The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video. They all loved seeing their great President! ... Some extremely powerful moments throughout the entire visit, with so much enthusiasm and love, contrary to what the Trump Hating Dems would ever share or say.”
Meanwhile, dozens of protesters chanted outside: “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
Nine people were killed in Sunday’s attack in a Dayton bar by a gunman who was then shot and killed by police. The tragedy occurred just hours after another gunman killed 22 people in a Walmart in El Paso.