Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says Trump is ‘not a white supremacist,’ following New Zealand mass shooting

President Trump's Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, is interviewed in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol before President Donald Trump's first State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC.

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President Trump’s Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, is interviewed in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol before President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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  • Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney insisted Sunday that President Donald Trump “is not a white supremacist” and that his past rhetoric has no relation to the mass shooting that killed 50 at two New Zealand mosques last week.
  • Speaking to host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Mulvaney hit back against suggested connections between the president’s rhetoric and the manifesto that was published by the shooter on Friday that mentioned him by name amid white nationalist and anti-immigrant ideas.
  • The president’s comments after the attack faced sharp criticism after he said he didn’t see white nationalism as a growing threat, but rather a “small group of people,” contrary to recent data.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney sought to distance President Donald Trump and his past rhetoric from a shooting at two New Zealand mosques, saying Sunday any suggested connection was “absurd.”

“The president is not a white supremacist,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I’m not sure how many times we have to say that.”

Host Chris Wallace referenced some parallels that lawmakers and members of media had drawn from Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims and immigrants to the hateful attack, including a 2016 clip in which then-candidate Trump said he believes “Islam hates us,” and Trump’s comments fromMarch in which he described an influx of illegal immigrants as an “invasion.”

Wallace also pointed out a selection from the shooter’s manifesto that was published before the attack that praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Though the 74-page manifesto has been identified as a provocation tool and not total fact, the direct mention of Trump’s name stood out in reports about the shooter’s anti-immigrant ideas.

“Let’s take what happened in New Zealand yesterday for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act and figure out why those things are becoming more prevalent in the world,” Mulvaney said. “Is it Donald Trump? Absolutely not. Is there something else happening in our culture where people think ‘I’m going to go on tv and live-stream me murdering other people,’ that’s what we should be talking about.”

Many reports took notice of the attack as the latest in a rising tide of hate group activity in United States. Recent data from the Anti-Defamation League concluded every extremist killing in the US in 2018 had a link to right-wing extremism.

When Wallace asked if Trump would be willing to address the country and condemn the attacks and white supremacy as a whole in addition to his tweets about the attack, Mulvaney said he didn’t see the necessity of it, as the administration was already “doing everything that we can.”

“I’m not sure what more you want the president to do,” Mulvaney said about Trump’s Friday tweets. “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 is that the president is doing everything that we can to prevent this type of thing from happening here.”

Speculation over the president’s connection to the political environment surrounding the massacre has drawn a sharp partisan divide among lawmakers and the media.

Read more: Tucker Carlson ignored white supremacist message of suspected New Zealand shooter, instead criticizing Democrats and journalists

Multiple reports cited analysis like a November 2018 report from The Washington Post that found far-right violence has been on the rise since President Donald Trump entered the White House.

Additionally, an October 2018 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found a majority of Americans agree that Trump has “encouraged white supremacist groups” with his decisions and behavior.

After the president’s name was found in the manifesto, speculation picked up following Trump’s non-specific response to reporters about white nationalism in the hours after the attack.

The president offered no condemnation of the shooter’s apparent motivation in that attack. On Friday afternoon, Trump was asked in a press pool, “Do you see today white nationalism a rising threat around the world?”

“I don’t really,” the president said. “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.”

Watch Mulvaney’s full interview below: