Nowhere was a denunciation of the philosophy that apparently undergirded the suspect’s acts: a belief that immigration amounted to an “invasion” that threatened white culture. That “invasion” line was echoed by Trump during a ceremony on Friday in which he vetoed a resolution that would block his effort to build a wall on the border with Mexico. (On Fox News, Mulvaney insisted that “[t]he two things have nothing to do with each other.”)
After claiming that Trump's tweets served to eschew white nationalism, Mulvaney continued.
“I mean, the president — I’m not sure what more you want the president to do,” he said. “You may say you [want him to give] a national speech to address the nation, that’s fine. Maybe we do that, maybe we don’t, but I think you could jump to the basic issue, the president is doing everything that we can to prevent this type of thing from happening here.”
In sum, Mulvaney’s argument was a familiar one: Trump’s rhetoric is at enough of a distance from violent racist acts that Mulvaney can reasonably argue that the two are disconnected. While a document allegedly written by the New Zealand suspected shooter did cite Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity,” he did not specifically say that Trump’s rhetoric directly inspired him.
“The president is not a white supremacist,” Mulvaney argued, though that wasn’t really the question. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. And to simply ask the question every time something like this happens overseas or even domestically, to say, oh, my goodness, it must somehow be the president’s fault speaks to a politicization of everything that I think is undermining sort of the institutions that we have in the country today.”
Shortly before Mulvaney’s interview aired, Trump explicitly undercut Mulvaney’s argument that “the president is doing everything that we can to prevent this type of thing from happening here” in his tweets.
“Bring back [Judge Jeanine] Pirro,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning, referring to the Fox News host whose show didn’t air on Saturday. “The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country. They have all out campaigns against [Fox News] hosts who are doing too well. Fox must stay strong and fight back with vigor. Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down, and continue to fight for our Country.”
He later added a defense of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for [Judge Jeanine],” Trump wrote. “Your competitors are jealous — they all want what you’ve got — NUMBER ONE. Don’t hand it to them on a silver platter.”
Setting aside the weirdness of a president weighing in on cable news scheduling, it’s important to remember why, exactly, Pirro and Carlson are under fire.
Pirro’s show didn’t air on Saturday almost certainly because, the week before, she had suggested that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) hijab meant that she was an adherent of “sharia law,” which Pirro claimed “is antithetical to the United States Constitution.” Her remarks were contentious enough that Fox News took the unusual step of distancing themselves from what she said.
The comments, the network said, “do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”
Carlson, meanwhile, was revealed to have made racist comments on a radio show several years ago. That included calling Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys” and questioning President Barack Obama’s racial identity. Carlson also said that a presidential candidate would be “elected king” if they vowed to kill as many of the “lunatic Muslims who are behaving like animals” as possible.
That rhetoric, it’s safe to say, is not as distant from what happened in New Zealand as what Trump has said about the issue. But Trump’s response to the criticism faced by Pirro and Carlson is to ignore their comments and to disparage critics as partisan and biased.
"Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!” Trump encouraged the hosts and their network.
Trump won’t give a speech denouncing white supremacists and anti-Muslim rhetoric because he isn’t concerned about it. On Friday, he waved away the idea that white nationalists posed any significant threat: They were just a “small group of people.” Unlike, say, terrorists acting from a warped understanding of Islam, who were such a significant threat that Trump proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States during the campaign and then, as president, tried to figure out a way to make that ban a reality.
It’s far from novel to have a member of Trump’s administration offering an argument that’s obviously at odds with what Trump himself believes. By now, it’s practically the defining characteristic of Trump’s presidency. But on this issue, the contrast is immediately obvious in a way it isn’t always.
Mulvaney says Trump abhors anti-Muslim rhetoric. Trump says Fox News needs to keep it on the air.
Whom are you going to believe?