On Friday, at a small gathering of reporters in the Oval Office following the signing of his first presidential veto, President Donald Trump said he didn’t see the horrific shootings in New Zealand mosques as representative of a rise in white nationalism. According to The Hill, the president used the occasion of signing a veto to override Congress’ rejection of his declaration of a national emergency in order to secure funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border to say that he doesn’t see the shooting as indicative of some larger trend toward more white nationalism in the world.
“I don’t really, I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” Trump said when asked if he sees a rise in white nationalism. “If you look [at] what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet.”
At least 49 people are confirmed dead in an attack that was perpetrated on two mosques in the early afternoon on Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a 28-year-old man has been apprehended in the attack. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arnern said authorities believe the man has what she termed “extremist views,” likely in part due to the fact that he had prepared a 74-page manifesto outlining his beliefs. In that document, he cited President Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” The man appeared to be prepared to broadcast his extremist views to the world in the context of the shooting, live streaming the massacre and publishing the aforementioned manifesto in advance on Twitter and on the online forum 8chan, which is known for harboring people with extreme views.
Trump claimed he had not yet seen the manifesto, but called the shooting “a horrible act” before returning to answering questions about the veto over border wall funding meant to stem what he has suggested is a tide of immigrants crossing into the U.S.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway weighed in on the matter earlier in the day, saying that the shooter was incorrect to identify Trump as any kind of a symbol for a white power movement, and tried to isolate the man as a lone, mentally deranged shooter.
“He’s wrong,” Conway said. “The shooter is an evil, hateful person. He’s wrong about that.”
A HuffPost report noted that in the shooter’s manifesto, not only did he say he admired Trump, he said he had donated money to white supremacist groups, and even claimed to idolize American mass shooters. He also quoted the “14 words,” a well-known slogan among white supremacist groups: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”