President Donald Trump, who kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign at Trump Tower with an appeal to white nationalism, came under fire Sunday for denying that white supremacy ideology poses a serious threat globally. He has downplayed far-right extremism in the aftermath of a white supremacist killing at least 50 people in a devastating mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that President Trump “is not a white supremacist” and attempts to tie him to the mosque shooter are “absurd,” the Associated Press reported.
“I don’t really,” Trump said in the Oval Office Friday when asked if he saw white nationalism as a rising threat around the world. “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.”
Mulvaney’s statement came as several foreign affairs experts and American politicians disagreed with Trump on the talk shows and said that white nationalism does pose a global threat. Trump was sharply rebuked on CNN’s “State of the Union” by Michigan’s Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the first two Muslim women serving in Congress.
“There is real data and information right now of the rise of white supremacy in America. He needs to look at the data and the information and the facts and actually listen,” she said.
White supremacists quickly embraced Trump early in his presidential campaign, which began with a speech in which he described Mexicans who entered the United States illegally as criminals and rapists. His racially divisive rhetoric continued into his presidency.
One of his lowest moments came in the aftermath of the 2017 violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump defended the white nationalists as “very fine people.” It was a watershed moment in Trump legitimizing White supremacist groups.
White supremacists are counted among Trump’s most ardent supporters in his battle to build a wall along the border with Mexico and his political moves to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA.