Lest anyone get too comfortable believing that words don’t matter and Donald Trump’s nativist rhetoric is merely a political “nothing burger,” it is worth noting that the President of the United States has been directly cited as motivation for violent acts in at least seven terrorist plots and 81 murders.
Not all of these incidents were successful, but the intent to harm was real for each and every one.
At a time when his rallies carry chants of “Send her back!” as Trump targets a sitting U.S. congresswoman, let us remember the people who took his words to heart and moved forward with action.
Australian-born Brenton Tarrant published a manifesto before he walked into two Christchurch, New Zealand, mosques and shot dozens of worshipping Muslims. In that manifesto, the terrorist praised Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose".
Tarrant killed 51 people and wounded over a dozen more with his attacks.
Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson didn’t have the chance to act on his vile plans, but prosecutors labeled him a “domestic terrorist” nonetheless, saying his goal was “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
The self-proclaimed white nationalist and skinhead had a list of intended targets, which “included, among others, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Maxine Waters, Senator Richard Blumenthal, whom he referred to as “Sen blumen jew,” and many of the senators running for president in 2020.”
Hasson was one who advocated civil war if Trump were to be impeached, according to his internet searches.
Cesar Sayoc Jr. was an avid Trump fan, posting photos of himself wearing the trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, attending the president’s rallies, and driving a van plastered with hateful stickers and photos of the Trump and Vice President Pence.
The MAGA bomber went on to send pipe bombs to numerous left-wing individuals, including billionaire philanthropist George Soros, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
No one was injured by the devices, and Sayoc pleaded guilty to 65 felonies for mailing the bombs.
Waffle house shooter Travis Reinking “wanted to set up a meeting with the president,” according to authorities.
The Morton, Illinois, resident was arrested in April 2018 on multiple counts of criminal homicide in shootings at a Nashville Waffle House that killed four people.
Six people were killed in Quebec when Alexandre Bissonnette walked into an Islamic Cultural Center and unloaded 48 rounds on dozens of men wrapping up their evening prayers.
“During the often chilling hearing, prosecutors, survivors, prison psychologists and people who knew Mr. Bissonnette painted a portrait of a socially isolated but intelligent young man who developed an obsession with the far right, mass killers, Donald Trump and Muslims,” The New York Times reported in May 2018.
The 21-year-old white man accused of killing 20 people at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, and wounding dozens more, wrote in his manifesto that his view predated Trump but also echoed numerous of the president's talking points on immigrants.
The shooter described migrants coming to the U.S. as an "invasion," a term Trump has used on more than one occasion. He also complained that immigrants are taking Americans' jobs.
"While other leaders have expressed concern about border security and the costs of illegal immigration," The New York Times wrote after the massacre, "Mr. Trump has filled his public speeches and Twitter feed with sometimes false, fear-stoking language even as he welcomed to the White House a corps of hard-liners, demonizers and conspiracy theorists shunned by past presidents of both parties."
Alleged gunman Philip Manshaus, 21, reportedly was motivated by two previous mass shooters who pointed in part to Trump as inspiration for their own massacres.
The Independent reported that Manshaus referred to Christchurch, New Zealand, terrorist Brenton Tarrant (mentioned above in this list) as a "saint". Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslims as they worshipped, praised Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose".
In his online postings, Manshaus also mentioned alleged El Paso, Texas, shooter Patrick Crusius, who in an online manifesto reportedly parroted many of Trump's talking points on immigration, including calling the influx of migrants an "invasion."
Manshaus praised Crusius for "reclaiming his country."
Though the suspect's plan was thwarted by a worshipper who was able to subdue him before anyone was killed, Manshaus is also accused of killing his 17-year-old stepsister.
With Trump’s 2020 campaign strategy looking as hate-filled as his 2016 approach, it is likely only a matter of time until another individual takes the president’s words to heart and more people are burying their loved ones.