“This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately,” Trump told reporters just hours after the shooting. “If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better.”
The shooting left 11 dead and several others injured.
Trump also said those who commit violence inside houses of worship should receive the death penalty.
“When people do this, they should get the death penalty and they shouldn’t have to wait years and years,” he said. “They should pay the ultimate price.”
The president repeatedly referred to the synagogue shooter, identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, as a “wacko,” a “maniac” and “crazy.” Bowers was taken into custody.
Trump’s comments drew condemnation on social media from many who saw him as blaming the synagogue for the incident. U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., criticized the president for a “lack of empathy.”
Tommy Vietor, a political commentator and podcaster who worked in the Obama administration, also lashed out at Trump.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is Jewish, tweeted that “America is stronger than the acts of a depraved bigot and anti-semite.”
Later, at an event in Indiana, Trump added formal remarks on the shooting.
“This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil,” Trump said. “This was an anti-Semitic act. You wouldn’t think this would be possible in this day and age.”
He added: “Our minds cannot comprehend the cruel hate and twisted malice that could cause a person to unleash such terrible violence, during a baby naming ceremony at a sacred house of worship on the holy day of Sabbath.”
He added, “anti-Semitism and the widespread persecution of Jews represents one of the ugliest and darkest features of human history.”