Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney defended President Donald Trump on Sunday, calling suggestions his rhetoric on immigration influenced a mass shooting last week at two mosques in New Zealand “absurd.”
“The president is not a white supremacist,” Mulvaney said in an interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that.”
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“Let’s take what happened in New Zealand yesterday for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”
New Zealand police have charged 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant in Friday’s mass shooting, which killed 50 people. The accused gunman sent a lengthy manifesto filled with anti-immigrant rhetoric to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern minutes before the attack.
Critics have knocked Trump for not condemning white nationalism strongly enough and suggested the president’s inflammatory rhetoric contributes to violence.
Trump mourned the shootings in a tweet Friday. But later in the day, Trump told reporters he doesn’t see white nationalism as a widespread threat. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess,” the president said.
“I think that the public discourse from the president on down is a factor in some of these actions,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of Trump’s top critics on Capitol Hill, said in an interview Friday on CNN.
Mulvaney called drawing that connection “absurd.”
“To … 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,” he said.