Mayor Kenney owes President Trump an apology for linking the hanging of a black doll Thursday — which turned out to be a prank by two boys — to Trump's divisive rhetoric, the Pennsylvania GOP said Friday.
"Kenney blamed the president for a racially insensitive teenage prank without regard for the truth," Val DiGiorgio, chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "It is this kind of pre-judgement that causes such divisiveness in our political discourse today.
"I'm deeply disappointed that he would rush to judgement," DiGiorgio added, "and stoop this low to try to score cheap political points at the expense of the president and his supporters, be they Republicans, Democrats, or Independents."
Before the doll hanging at Weccacoe Playground in Queen Village was revealed to be a prank, Kenney said he was "sickened" by it.
"Although the investigation is still underway, I want to immediately condemn this despicable act," Kenney said Thursday. "It demonstrates how far this country has fallen when people are inspired by the hateful rhetoric of our president."
The two boys responsible, one black and one white, said later in the day they thought the doll was creepy and that they had put it up to scare people, not to stoke racial tensions. A mother with her 3-year-old child discovered the doll — hanging from a wire with a noose around its neck — at the playground, part of which sits on top of an African American burial ground.
Kenney's office on Friday stood by his earlier statement.
"The mayor does not regret his comments, nor will he apologize for them," city spokesman Mike Dunn said. "That statement yesterday was clear that the matter was still under investigation – and it remains so. But the need for all public officials to quickly condemn apparent hate crimes is a direct result of the unfortunate climate in which this entire nation now exists – a climate fueled by our president. It is his failure to condemn acts like the march in Charlottesville one year ago – in fact, his comments that praised those racists – that make it important to speak out quickly and forcefully."
Dunn was referring to when white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va., last summer, which led to violent clashes and the death of Heather Heyer, who was run over by a car driven by an alleged neo-Nazi, authorities said. Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence and then said there were "very fine people on both sides."
Philadelphia officials say they have seen more hate crimes and bias incidents reported since the 2016 presidential election. Among them, according to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations:
South Philly residents finding racist and pro-Trump graffiti spray painted on their storefronts, cars, and homes the day after the election.
Profanity about Jews written on the South Street Bridge.
A Latino father who was beat up by neighborhood white men and found graffiti on his house and car.
A gay man who found profanity on his apartment door.
A Jewish woman who discovered a swastika painted on her front steps.
A biracial couple who found a KKK advertisement on their car windshield.
A black resident who discovered the N-word on an electric meter and pipe on the front of their home
While not all hate crimes can be directly linked to Trump, his divisive rhetoric has emboldened people to share messages of hate, city officials and others say.
Trump told lawmakers and aides earlier this year he didn't want a flood of immigrants from "shithole countries" like Africa and Haiti and that he prefers people from Norway, which is predominately white. Across the country, incidents have been reported in which people used Trump's name while spewing racial slurs or vilifying people of color and immigrants.
On Thursday, at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Trump called the news media "fake, fake disgusting news" and cast journalists as his true political opponent. In July, the publisher of the New York Times warned Trump that his repeated inflammatory language was "contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence."