In the wake of the New Zealand attack on two mosques, in which a white nationalist killed at least 50 people, President Donald Trump was asked if he “see(s) today that white nationalism is a threat around the world?” Trump answered, “I don’t really.”
Trump has been accused of siding with white nationalists before. In August 2017 after the rally in Charlottesville, Trump said that there “there’s blame on both sides” for the violence. In October 2018, a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. When Trump announced his plan to visit the synagogue, many people in the city’s Jewish neighborhood demanded that Trump denounce white nationalism before visiting.
Trump defended himself from blame, tweeting, “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. So Ridiculous!”
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) insisted during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened white nationalism. He may be correct.
White nationalist leaders, such as Richard Spencer and David Duke, have support Trump publicly, both during his campaign and during his presidency. The New Zealand shooter called Trump a “renewed symbol of white identity.”
Research has shown that these attitudes have real consequences. The Washington Post examined counties that hosted Trump’s presidential campaign rallies in 2016 to see if there was a correlation between the rallies and increased hate crime incidents. They found that counties that had hosted a Trump rally experienced a 226% increase in hate crimes over comparable counties.
More, it’s difficult to discount a “Trump effect” when many of the crimes make a direct reference to Trump. Many of the incidents include vandalism, assault, and intimidation.
The FBI Universal Crime Report from 2017 found that hate crimes increased 17% over 2016. Research has also found that either reading or hearing biased statements from Trump makes people more likely to say offensive things about the target of the bias.