On Friday, a man apparently motivated by white supremacist ideas allegedly walked into mosques in New Zealand and murdered 50 people. He appears to have written a lengthy document explaining his motivations, including multiple references to online memes, arcane white nationalist talking points and, at one point, an apparent appreciation for President Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
Trump and his allies have, understandably, distanced the president from any link to the New Zealand shooting. In a tweet on Monday morning, Trump claimed that the “Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one.” This came a day after Trump tweeted his support for Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who had been suspended from her show on Saturday after making an anti-Muslim comment about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
The White House’s response to the New Zealand attack more broadly fits into a by-now expected pattern. When an apparent terrorist or hate attack has been committed by a Muslim, Trump is quick to draw attention to it. When it targets Muslims, however, Trump’s responses are slower and tonally different. That pattern itself helps bolster questions about Trump’s willingness to condemn violence against Muslims.
We compiled some examples of this divide last year, but it’s worth revisiting in light of Trump’s current defensiveness. We’ve included major attacks during the 2016 campaign and individual attacks during Trump’s presidency.
When attacks appear to have been committed by Muslims
Nov. 15, 2015: Several terrorists carried out a coordinated attack in Paris that killed 130 people. Trump tweeted about the attacks on the same day, offering the victims his prayers. The next day, he criticized former president Barack Obama for having said shortly before the attack occurred that the Islamic State militant group, which claimed responsibility for the Paris killings, had continued to shrink.
A few days later, Trump pointed to the attack as a validation of his policies.
Dec. 2, 2015: When a husband and wife murdered 14 people at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, Calif., Trump tweeted about the attack even before the perpetrators had been identified, though without linking it to Muslims. He did, however, continue to defend his untrue claims that he’d seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by retweeting a defender.
Several days after the attack, Trump made a policy proposal.
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” he read from a statement at a rally. The husband in the San Bernardino shooting was born in the United States.
May 19, 2016: After a plane en route to Egypt disappeared, Trump quickly tweeted that it looked “like yet another terrorist attack.”
At a fundraiser, he went further.
“What just happened 12 hours ago? A plane got blown out of the sky,” Trump said. “And if anyone doesn’t think it was blown out of the sky, you’re 100 percent wrong.”
The working theory for the crash is that a fire in the cockpit brought the plane down.
June 12, 2016: A man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State murdered 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando.
Trump offered his thoughts in a string of tweets. The first said he was “[p]raying for all the victims & their families,” then asked, “When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?”
He followed that up with a widely criticized tweet praising his own foresight.
He later wrote that the Orlando attacker had yelled “Allah hu Akbar” as he carried out the attack and offered an ominous warning about another man arrested near a pride parade in Los Angeles. That man was from Indiana.
“What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning,” Trump wrote later that day. “Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough.”
Dec. 19, 2016: Trump, as president-elect, released a statement tied to an attack at a Christmas market in Germany within hours of the incident.
The Islamic State, the statement read, “and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad. These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth.”
The statement didn’t note that most victims of Islamic State violence have been Muslims killed by attacks in the Middle East.
He also tweeted a broader message about terrorism.
As the Guardian noted at the time, it wasn’t clear whether Trump knew that the attack in Switzerland targeted Muslims at an Islamic center. Nor was it known at the time of Trump’s tweet who had carried out the attack in Germany.
Jan. 31, 2017: A convert to Islam claiming allegiance to the Islamic State fatally shot a security guard in Colorado. Trump didn’t comment.
Feb. 3, 2017: A man armed with a machete attacked soldiers near the Louvre in Paris. He’d expressed sympathy for the Islamic State in posts published online. Trump offered a response on Twitter.
“A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris,” he wrote. “Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.”
One soldier was wounded in the attack.
March 22, 2017: Pedestrians on a bridge in London were struck by a car driven by a man who was allegedly inspired by the Islamic State. He then got out and stabbed a police officer. Trump tweeted his support for the British prime minister on the same day.
It was later revealed that the attacker had complained about the “racism and rudeness” of Trump, as well as his frustration with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
April 9, 2017: Two Christian churches in Egypt were targeted by suicide bombers on Palm Sunday, killing 47 people. Trump tweeted about it on the same day.
“So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt,” he wrote. “U.S. strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly.”
May 22, 2017: A bomb exploded outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The next day, Trump offered his condolences to the victims and declared that “terrorists and extremists, and those who give them aid and comfort, must be driven out from our society forever.”
June 2, 2017: Before announcing that he was withdrawing the United States from an international climate agreement, Trump took a moment to lament what he said was a terrorist attack in the Philippines. It was, he said, “pretty sad what is going on throughout the world with terror.”
That attack was later identified as a robbery.
June 3, 2017: Another attack on a bridge in London, after which attackers got out of the van they were driving and began stabbing people nearby. Eight people were killed.
Before the attack even ended, Trump retweeted Drudge Report speculation about a terrorist attack killing 20 people. He followed it up with a pitch for his travel ban.
June 21, 2017: An immigrant from Tunisia wounded a security officer at an airport in Michigan, blaming American policy in the Middle East. No comment from Trump.
Aug. 17, 2017: Two attacks carried out by terrorists linked to the Islamic State left 16 people dead in Barcelona. Trump tweeted his support the same day.
Sept. 15, 2017: A man who claimed to have been trained by the Islamic State attempted to detonate a bomb on a subway in London. It didn’t completely detonate.
“Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” Trump wrote shortly after the attempted attack. “Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner. The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!”
British authorities, including May, criticized Trump for speculating about the motivation of the attacker before details had been determined.
Oct. 31, 2017: An immigrant drove a truck onto a bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people. That same day, Trump offered a statement, expressing condolences and then speaking more broadly.
“I have just ordered homeland security to step up our already extreme vetting program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!” he wrote, then adding, “We must not allow [the Islamic State] to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!”
He made this attack a staple of his speeches over the next year, repeatedly claiming, without evidence, that the attacker had helped more than a dozen relatives immigrate to the United States. He would amplify the damage done by the man, pointing out that the 11 people injured would endure long recuperation periods. During his State of the Union address in January 2018, he referred to the attack.
“In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration,” he said. “In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can just no longer afford.”
Nov. 24, 2017: Gunmen believed to be linked to the Islamic State opened fire at a mosque on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing 311 people.
Trump again used the incident as support for his ban on migration from several Muslim-majority companies.
“The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!” he wrote. “Will be calling the President of Egypt in a short while to discuss the tragic terrorist attack, with so much loss of life. We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will. Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt.”
Dec. 11, 2017: The second New York attack referenced by Trump during his speech to Congress was an attempt by a green-card holder to detonate an explosive in a tunnel in New York’s subway system. Five people were wounded. The same day, Trump offered a response.
“America must fix its lax immigration system,” he wrote, “which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country.”
March 19, 2018: A teenager who claimed to have converted to Islam stabbed three people during a sleepover, killing one. Trump didn’t respond.
March 23, 2018: A man linked to the Islamic State took hostages at a supermarket in France, killing several people, including a police officer.
Trump offered his thoughts the next day.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the horrible attack in France yesterday, and we grieve the nation’s loss,” he wrote on Twitter. “We also condemn the violent actions of the attacker and anyone who would provide him support.”
May 12, 2018: After a French citizen born in Chechnya attacked pedestrians with a knife in Paris, the Islamic State claimed credit. One person died. The next day, Trump offered thoughts.
“At some point countries will have to open their eyes & see what is really going on,” he wrote. “This kind of sickness & hatred is not compatible with a loving, peaceful, & successful country! Changes to our thought process on terror must be made.”
Aug. 14, 2018: A Sudanese refugee drove his car into pedestrians near Parliament in London, wounding three people.
“Another terrorist attack in London,” Trump wrote the same day. “These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”
When attacks appear to have targeted Muslims
June 29, 2016: A man in Minneapolis shot two Muslim men near a mosque, allegedly while shouting anti-Muslim epithets.
Trump didn’t offer any comment.
Aug. 13, 2016: An imam at a New York City mosque and an associate were fatally shot after afternoon prayers. Trump didn’t offer any comment.
Jan. 29, 2017: A student entered a mosque in Quebec City and murdered six worshipers. He claimed to have been motivated by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s welcoming refugees following Trump’s initial effort to ban Muslims from entering the United States. In a selfie, the shooter was pictured wearing a red “Make America great again” hat.
Then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed that the attack was a reason to support Trump’s ban.
“It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant,” Spicer said. “And why the president is taking steps to be proactive, not reactive.”
Feb. 24, 2017: Two engineers from India were accosted by a man at a bar in Kansas, apparently because the man believed they were Iranian. The man was kicked out of the bar but then came back and murdered one of the engineers.
Trump responded four days later, after having failed to address that incident or a number of anti-Semitic incidents that had recently occurred. He mentioned both during his first address to Congress.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City,” he said, “remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
Trump did not identify the motivation in the Kansas attack.
May 26, 2017: A man harassing two teenagers on a train in Portland, including one in traditional Muslim attire, stabbed two men to death when they attempted to intervene.
The White House offered a response on Trump’s official Twitter account three days later.
“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable,” the tweet read. “The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”
The motivation of the killer wasn’t mentioned.
June 19, 2017: A man drove a van into a crowd near a mosque in north London, killing one. The White House offers no response.
August 5, 2017: A mosque in Minnesota was the target of a bombing. No one was injured. One of the men indicted in the attack had, through his company, submitted a bid to build the wall Trump wants on the border with Mexico.
Trump offered no comment. At the time, White House adviser Seb Gorka dismissed the initial reports.
"There’s a great rule: All initial reports are false,” he said, claiming that a number of alleged hate crimes “turned out to actually have been propagated by the left.”
March 15, 2019: A man in New Zealand murders 50 people.
The next morning, Trump tweets his support for the country.
He doesn’t mention the motivation for the attack.
Later, he’s asked whether he’s concerned about an increase in white nationalism globally.
“I don’t really,” Trump replied. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”