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Trump Defends Fox Hosts' Racist Remarks As White House Dismisses Reports That President Inspired Christchurch Attacker

"This is a president who peddled the birther conspiracy about President Obama, called for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims...if that's not white nationalism then I don't know what is."

Julia Conley

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday denied that President Donald Trump is a white supremacist as the administration attempting to deflect reports that the suspect in New Zealand's mosque attacks last week was an admirer of the president. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

Expressing deep frustration and anger over President Donald Trump's ongoing refusal to unequivocally condemn white nationalism, critics on Sunday pushed back against the White House's dismissal of reports that the suspect in last week's Christchurch mosque attacks admired the president—even as Trump once again expressed support for white supremacist views.

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney chuckled as he dismissed Chris Wallace's question on "Fox News Sunday" about the president's refusal to unequivocally align himself on the side of the Muslim community following the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, by an accused attacker who specifically expressed admiration for Trump in a manifesto.

"Let me just ask, to the degree that there's 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.

"The president is not a white supremacist," Mulvaney replied. "I'm not sure how many times we have to say that."

"This is a president who peddled the birther conspiracy about President Obama, called for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims, said he was open to closing down mosques in this country after the Paris attacks, has suggested that he's open to getting rid of Muslims in this country," said Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats, on CNN. "I mean if that's not white nationalism then I don't know what is."

Mulvaney's remarks—and similar deflections on CBS's "Face the Nation"—were denounced on social media by many who noted that despite its commitment to denial, the administration cannot escape the fact that the suspect in the Christchurch attack wrote in his manifesto that he saw Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."

"This is what happens when intolerance is allowed to flourish, something that's happening more and more since President Donald Trump took office," wrote the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. "Of course Trump is [a symbol to the attacker]. His anti-Muslim rhetoric is loud and clear."

The mention of Trump in the suspect's writings called to mind for many Trump critics the president's refusal to condemn white supremacists who staged a violent rally in Charlottesville in 2017, his characterization of Central American immigrants as "invaders," and his executive order banning travelers from several majority-Muslim countries—one of his very first actions as president. 

As Mulvaney was claiming that none of Trump's rhetoric, policies, or conduct denote white supremacist views, the president took to Twitter to denounce Fox for reportedly suspending host Jeanine Pirro after she suggested Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Muslim who immigrated to the U.S. as a child, adheres "to Shariah law" because she wears a hijab. 

The president demanded that Fox air Pirro's show, "stop working soooo hard on being politically correct," and instead defend the statements of Pirro as well as those of Tucker Carlson, the Fox host who was heard last week in an interview from 2008 calling Iraqis "semi-literate primitive monkeys."

The remarks further proved Trump critics' point, progressives on social media said.

In the wake of the shooting, writer and illustrator Eli Valley tweeted that while Trump will likely continue to deny his responsibility for emboldening white supremacists, the press and other government leaders must commit to telling the truth about the president or risk being complicit in attacks like those in New Zealand.

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