President Donald Trump complained Monday that the U.S. national news media “is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.”
He said on Twitter, “They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”
Trump apparently was incensed that major U.S. news outlets reported that Brent Harris Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist accused in the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, said in a manifesto he released Friday shortly before the attacks that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” even though he did not support his policies.
Asked Friday after the attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
Trump said he had not seen the manifesto.
The president has condemned the attack and voiced support for New Zealand. But he has not commented on Tarrant’s apparent motive for allegedly carrying out the attacks — his avowed racism and hatred for immigrants and Muslims.
The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link Trump to Tarrant.
“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”
Trump’s dismissal that white nationalism is on the rise renewed criticism that he has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.
Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”
Mulvaney, in the Fox News interview, said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person (Tarrant) as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic congresswoman from New York.
“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” Mulvaney said.
Scott Brown, U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be,” and “lock him up and throw away the key.”