Trump claims not ‘really’ a rise in white nationalism after racist kills dozens of Muslims in New Zealand
A racist gunman had only hours earlier killed dozens of Muslims in New Zealand and hate crimes in the U.S. have been on the rise since he took office — but President Donald Trump shrugged Friday when asked if he considers white nationalism a growing problem.
“I don’t really,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet.”
“But,” he added, “it’s certainly a terrible thing, a terrible thing.”
Trump’s comments came less than 24 hours after an Australian white supremacist stormed into a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and fatally shot 41 people, according to authorities. A few minutes later, a second shooting at a nearby mosque left another eight people dead.
The president said he hadn’t read a manifesto released online by one of the suspected shooters just hours before the gruesome attack. In the since-deleted screed, the suspect said he considers Trump a “symbol” of “white identity.”
“I did not see it,” Trump said of the manifesto. “But I think it’s a horrible event.”
Speaking to reporters later, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had a one word response when asked whether she agreed with Trump’s assessment on white nationalism: “No.”
In the U.S. alone, hate crimes increased for the third year in a row in 2017, according to FBI statistics. Racial and ethnic hate attacks accounted for a majority of them, the FBI said in its latest hate crimes report.
Meanwhile, the number of white nationalist hate groups ballooned by nearly 50 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A poignant display of the prevalence of white nationalism in the U.S. came in the summer of 2017, when throngs of racists converged on the small Virginia town of Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. The far-right rally resulted in the death of a 32-year-old counter protester at the hands of a self-described neo-Nazi.
Trump’s obliviousness on the issue did not strike some by surprise.
“The rise of white nationalism would not be seen as a problem by a white nationalist I guess,” actress Judy Kuhn tweeted.