Trump downplays threat from white nationalists: ‘I think it’s a small group of people’
In the wake of a deadly attack on two New Zealand mosques, carried out, according to police, by a white supremacist,
President Trump downplayed the danger posed by white nationalism.
Trump spoke to reporters on Friday afternoon, shortly after issuing the first veto of his presidency, which preserved
his declaration of an emergency over the threat to American safety from immigrants from Central America.
“I don’t really, 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 it’s certainly a terrible thing,” the president said.
Trump, who said he reached out to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to express his “sorrow” over the killings, described the latest terrorist attack to target Muslims as a “horrible, horrible thing.”
The president then pivoted to decry “crimes of all kinds coming through our southern border,” adding that “people hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is.”
Critics of the president have accused him using rhetoric that stokes unfounded fears about immigrants as he pursues a campaign promise of building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
“The words and imagery coming out of the Trump administration and from Trump himself are heightening these fears,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told reporters on a conference call last month.
“These images of foreign scary invaders threatening diseases, massive refugee caravans coming from the south. This is fear mongering.”
Some white supremacist groups have taken inspiration from Trump’s depiction of immigrants as a threat to American safety and prosperity.