Update: On Saturday, President Trump was quick to tweet about the unfolding situation in London, ascribing the reported injuries in that city to terrorism — even as London police were still instructing citizens on how to respond (and insisting on the need for caution about news reports).
Trump wasted no time using the attacks to advocate for his policy on immigration.
We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2017
That tweet and his retweet of the news from Drudge Report preceded the determination by British authorities that the attack was terrorism. Our analysis of Trump’s readiness to tweet on certain topics from earlier this week follows.
Despite the horrifying nature of the Friday murders of two men on a light-rail train in Portland, Ore., there was an element of pride. The two men who were killed were trying to calm their killer, Jeremy Joseph Christian, who was shouting anti-Islamic slurs at two women on the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Christian then pulled a knife on the two men and a third man, killing the two and injuring the third.
One of those killed was Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, a 2016 graduate of Reed College. The other was Rick Best, 53, a veteran of the Army and father of four. Two very different people intervening on behalf of two strangers being targeted for their religion — and paying for their efforts with their lives.
It wasn’t until Monday morning that President Trump tweeted about the incident, praising the victims. That tweet came from the @POTUS account, the official account of the presidency that generally posts anodyne updates about the goings-on of the White House — or, on occasion, retweets Trump’s main Twitter account. That account, @realdonaldtrump, is followed by 31 million people. @POTUS is followed by 18 million.
Critics of the president were quick to note how long it took Trump to get around to any mention of the Portland attacks, and from his secondary Twitter account. Compared with violent incidents that were a function of Islamic terrorism, the demure @POTUS tweet was remarkably late.
One of the first tragedies to which Trump had to respond as a candidate was the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C. He did so about 16 hours after the killings occurred.
The tragedy in South Carolina is incomprehensible. My deepest condolences to all.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2015
It’s worth noting that this was about eight months before the important South Carolina primary.
Trump tweeted much more quickly after the Nov. 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 137 people. It took about three and a half hours.
My prayers are with the victims and hostages in the horrible Paris attacks. May God be with you all.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2015
It took him about an hour and a half in December of that year to tweet about the shooting attack in San Bernardino, Calif.
California shooting looks very bad. Good luck to law enforcement and God bless. This is when our police are so appreciated!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2015
When an EgyptAir plane went missing in May of last year, Trump speculated that it was terrorism well before the plane was located, much less a cause identified.
Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2016
It took about six hours for Trump to tweet about the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June, but it had happened overnight.
Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
His follow-up tweet on the subject earned much more attention.
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
All of those happened on the campaign trail. But as president, the pattern has continued. Trump took only about 14 hours to respond to the terrorist attacks in Manchester last week, though that was while he was traveling overseas. By contrast, when a man shot two Indian men at a bar in Kansas apparently under the mistaken assumption that they were Muslim, it took Trump more than six days to comment on the killing. When he did so, it was during his joint speech to Congress, with some 48 million people tuned in. In those remarks on Feb. 28, he also mentioned a spate of threats at Jewish community centers that had begun in January.
He never tweeted about either, which is important. Trump has repeatedly said that he sees his Twitter account as a way of bypassing the filter of traditional media, meaning that he sees his Twitter account as the most direct method for sharing his thoughts with the country.
It’s easy to come up with extenuating circumstances for why Trump may have tweeted about attacks by Muslims and not attacks against America’s Muslim and Jewish communities. Perhaps it’s a function of scale; perhaps these mass killings are more worthy of his time and energy. Perhaps it’s a function of his having more of a focus on terrorism on the campaign trail. But all of that is undercut by the fact that he tweets so readily about so many less consequential things.
For example, when he tweets about things he saw on TV.
There was this classic example, when Fox News aired this segment …
Former Gitmo detainee killed by a U.S. airstrike in Yemen; at least 122 former Gitmo detainees have re-engaged in terrorism pic.twitter.com/y9jb420fFZ
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) March 7, 2017
… and Trump tweeted an incorrect summary of it less than an hour later.
122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017
As with the EgyptAir crash, Trump couldn’t even make sure what he was tweeting was correct. Since it reinforced his political goals, it was more important simply to push it out. Nor was this during the campaign. He had been president for a month and a half.
So why didn’t Trump quickly praise those killed in Portland or denounce the killer in Kansas?
The answer to that is left as an exercise for the reader.