The suspect in New Zealand’s mass shooting was “wrong” to describe President Donald Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Friday.
Brenton Tarrant, who is now in police custody, said in his 74-page manifesto that while he does not admire Trump as a “policy maker and leader,” he supported the president “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
“He’s wrong. The shooter is an evil, hateful person. He’s wrong about that,” Conway said, according to The Hill.
She added: “I think you should cover the entire manifesto if you’re going to cherry pick a piece of it. Respectfully, you have a duty to talk about what’s motivating hate and violence.”
Asked if Trump was disturbed to discover he was mentioned in such a way by the suspected shooter, Conway replied, “Are you disturbed that somebody could be so hateful and evil?”
Tarrant’s mention of the president as inspiration brought forth renewed debate as to whether Trump bears any responsibility for his rhetoric, which stokes the fears of those in the white nationalist movement.
His decidedly anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim speech has fallen favorably upon white nationalists in the United States, and apparently around the world. Tarrant is an Australian national.
Trump offered a tweet on Friday condemning the mass shooting, though he failed to mention the white supremacist underpinnings of the shooter or call the incident what it was: a terrorist attack.