The President and first lady Jill Biden head to Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday to meet with community leaders, first responders and the families of victims of a mass shooting that left 10 people dead and three wounded.
In Buffalo, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday, the first couple “will comfort the families of the 10 people whose lives were senselessly taken in this horrific shooting. And they will express gratitude for the bravery of members of law enforcement and other law enforcement members who took immediate action to try and protect and save lives.”
“Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism,” he continued in the statement.
Buffalo shooting being investigated as a hate crime
Saturday’s massacre in Buffalo is the latest high-profile mass shooting in which authorities have said the suspect was motivated by hate, including attacks at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, and the district attorney has said he expects to file more charges. Gendron is in custody without bail and under suicide watch. If convicted, he faces a maximum of life in prison without parole.
The US Department of Justice is investigating the mass shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” according to a statement from US Attorney General Merrick Garland. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.
White House declines to single out figures espousing ideologies mirrored by suspect
When asked on Monday whether the President would use Tuesday’s trip to call on Congress to pass gun reform legislation, Jean-Pierre said that his priority was mainly to “offer some comfort” to the community.
“That is going to be our priority with the first lady. I don’t want to get ahead of what he is going to say,” she said, adding that the President plans to continue to call on Congress to pass gun reform throughout the year.
Jean-Pierre also declined to specifically name individuals espousing “hatred” in the wake of the shooting.
Pressed on why the White House was not calling out prominent figures espousing some of the same theories the shooting suspect wrote about, Jean-Pierre told CNN’s MJ Lee it was “because it doesn’t matter who it is.”
“If a person espouses hatred, we need to call that out,” she said.
Jean-Pierre said she didn’t want to “get into a back-and-forth on names and who said what,” but insisted that “if there’s an individual that is espousing hate, xenophobia … just White supremacy type of extremism, we need to call that out.”
CNN’s Arlette Saenz, Nikki Carvajal, Victor Blackwell, Amanda Watts, Eric Levenson and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.