The Washington Post’s editorial board has condemned President Trump for failing to denounce white supremacy or attribute its rise as contributing to the horrific murders of 49 people in attacks on two New Zealand mosques by a self-described white supremacist, who in an online manifesto said he supports Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity”, according to The Hill. Trump yesterday, when questioned by reporters in the Oval Office, said he doesn’t sees a rise in white nationalism, attributing such violence instead to “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
This is of course not the first time that President Trump has made a lackluster response in the wake of white supremacist violence. After the Charlottesville white supremacist rally left one dead and dozens injured after a white supremacist deliberately drove his car into a crowd of protesters, President Trump said there were “fine people on both sides“. Trump was also widely criticized for his failure to speak out against white supremacists following the foiled terrorist plot by Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist. The Washington Post called out Trump for this history of lackluster responses, saying while he is not to blame for the New Zealand attack, he needs to understand the role his own rhetoric plays in encouraging white supremacists, and he needs to accept the reality that, as his own government has determined, white supremacist violence is indeed on the rise in the world. According to The Hill:
The Washington Post‘s editorial board condemned President Trump‘s rhetoric on Friday following a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques earlier that day. The Post’s editorial board said it did not blame Trump for the massacre, but said the suspected shooter’s “nativist rhetoric” was akin to Trump’s…”Still, he should go further than he has; for starters, by condemning the alleged killer, whose nativist rhetoric — he called immigrants ‘invaders,’ attacked ‘mass immigration’ and wrote that he hoped to ‘directly reduce immigration rates’ — overlaps with the president’s own,” the board added…The Post’s board called on Trump to reject the suspected shooter’s reported anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views, urging him to recognize white nationalism as a problem.
The Muslim-American group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) concurs with The Post’s assessment that Trump should denounce the ideology of the killer behind the attacks on mosques in New Zealand. CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad, directing his comments to Trump, said in a press conference yesterday, according to The Hill, “During your presidency and during your election campaign, Islamophobia took a sharp rise and attacks on innocent Muslims, innocent immigrants and mosques have skyrocketed. We hold you responsible for this growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country and in Europe, but also we do not excuse those terrorist attackers against minorities at home and abroad.” Indeed Trump responded very differently on past occasions when Christians or Jews, rather than Muslims, were the target of attacks. According to CNN:
Trump’s failure to do more to point out that the worshipers who died in Christchurch were Muslim represents a double standard, given that he has been much clearer in ascribing a religious motivation to other killings. Last year, after an attack on a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh, Trump spoke of an “anti-Semitic” motive in the attack, which itself sparked a debate over whether his inflammatory rhetoric was to blame for a rise in hate crimes. When 28 Coptic Christians died in suicide bombings in Egypt in May 2017, the President decried the “merciless slaughter of Christians” and warned that the “bloodletting of Christians must end.” …Trump has often been quick to wade in when a Muslim extremist has been a perpetrator of an attack and Muslims are not the victims, or to use such attacks to further his political arguments…Trump’s dismissal of the idea that white nationalism is on the rise contradicted warnings of his own government, and it was a characteristic example of how he ignores statistics that do not suit his political arguments.
No matter how many people condemn President Trump’s rhetoric, he has shown he is unlikely to change it, largely because he attempts to appeal to his base using hatred and fear as cohesive forces. Having a president that is viewed by much of the world as racist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant is an embarrassment to many Americans, but it is likely to take an election, with a change of president, in order to change that.