The man acting as White House chief of staff protested Sunday that “the President is not a white supremacist” and asserted President Donald Trump had done enough to combat violent Islamophobia, despite Trump’s claim that “Islam hates us” and his minimization of the white nationalist movement.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney rejected the notion that the man detained after murdering 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand was a fan of the President’s.
In a manifesto published before he allegedly murdered the Mosque-goers, the shooter wrote in a Q-and-A format: “Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump? As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.”
After “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace read Mulvaney the first sentence, Mulvaney said he was “disappointed” Wallace didn’t include the second.
“I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump,” Mulvaney said.
Wallace pointed to critics who say Trump has contributed to an anti-Muslim climate, given that he said “Islam hates us” during the 2016 campaign, and that he refers to undocumented immigrants as an “invasion,” the same word the Christchurch shooter used to describe Muslims.
After the shooting, Trump minimized the threat of white nationalists, referring to them as “a small group of people.” And he infamously said after the dealy white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
“To the degree that there is an issue with white supremacist, white nationalist, anti-Muslim bigotry in this country, and there is an issue with that, why not deliver a speech condemning it?” Wallace asked.
“You’ve seen the President stand up for religious liberty, individual liberty,” Mulvaney responded. “The President is not a white supremacist, I’m not sure how many times we have to say that.”
Questioning Trump’s influence on white nationalist terrorist attacks, Mulvaney said, “speaks to a politicization of everything that I think is undermining the institutions that we have in the country today.”
Wallace pressed again: “The President speaks out about a lot of things that he’s not responsible for, and that he doesn’t feel there’s any link. Terrorism. Why not make a speech and make it clear that there is no place in America for this kind of hatred?”
“I think you saw that yesterday in the tweet,” Mulvaney began, though Trump’s message of “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to “the people of New Zealand” made no mention of the Muslim community or white nationalists.
Mulvaney continued: “I’m not sure what more you want the President to do. You may say you want to give him a national speech to address the nation. That’s fine. Maybe we do that, maybe we don’t. But I think you get down to the basic issue, which is that the President is doing everything that we can to prevent this type of thing from happening here.”
He concluded: “It’s a tragedy, and I get that. And we’re in a hyper-partisan time in the country, and I get that, but that doesn’t mean we need to marry these two events.”
In response to a similar question on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Mulvaney said: “I get a lot of questions from people saying, ‘You need to tell the President to go and give an Oval Office address on this or on that.’ That’s not how the system works. The President communicates in his way. Different presidents have communicated in their way.”
“I don’t think anybody can claim that Donald Trump hasn’t done exactly what we’d want him to do in this circumstance.”
This post has been updated.