The pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who is the daughter of a victim of the mass shooting in 2015 said she’s grateful that former President Barack Obama was in office during the time of the tragedy, as opposed to President Trump.
Nine church members were murdered three years ago during prayer service at Rev. Sharon Risher’s church after 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof opened fired inside of the building. Risher lost her mother and cousins during the church massacre. The pastor gave her condolences to victims of Pittsburgh’s synagogue shooting during an interview with CNN host Don Lemon on Monday.
Risher told Lemon she doesn’t think Trump has the compassion and sentiment like Obama to help synagogue members who were present during the shooting. She added that having Trump visit Pittsburgh with “such divisiveness, such — the language that he use” wasn’t what the city needed.
“They deserve someone with compassion and kindness who is able to relate to them — I just don’t think Trump has that in him,” said Rev. Risher. “I’m sorry that that’s the case. But leave them be for right now. Let them be able to cling to each other as a community and as family members try to navigate through how they will be able to go on for the next days and weeks following this.”
An open letter from a liberal Pittsburgh Jewish group said they consider Trump unwelcome in the city until he denounces white nationalism and abandons his rhetoric and policies targeting minorities. By Tuesday, the letter had gotten more 70,000 signatures, but Trump was scheduled to visit the city by late afternoon.
The AME Church leader thanked Obama for being such a compassionate and gracious president during her congregation’s time of need.
“I’m just glad that we had Obama. I’m really glad,” Risher told Lemon. “I don’t know what we would have done as a community if that had happened to us and we had to deal with Trump being our president. I just don’t think the healing process would have begun as fast as it did if we had someone else.”
Robert Bowers, 46, surrendered to authorities on Saturday after killing 11 synagogue members and injuring six others. He could be facing the death penalty if federal prosecutors’ request is granted.