White House counselor Kellyanne Conway urged Fox News viewers to read the entire 74-page manifesto of the suspected mass shooter who killed at least 50 people in New Zealand, claiming it will show that he was not inspired by President Trump.
“People should read it the entire — in its entirety,” said Conway of the white nationalist manifesto, speaking on Fox & Friends Monday morning. “I guess everybody scoured it, searched for Donald Trump’s name, and there it is one time,” she said, “but he also said he aligns closely with the ideology of China, he said he’s not a conservative, he’s not a Nazi. I think he refers to himself as an ‘eco-naturalist’ or an ‘eco-fascist.’”
“A monstrously bad idea for several reasons, especially for Conway, since the shooter was obsessed with immigrants, and thought the president was a staunch defender of white identity who simply wasn't going far enough,” said Ben Collins, who covers extremism for NBC News.
Trump is mentioned in the manifesto. The shooter wrote he was a supporter of the president as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but not “as a policy maker and leader ... Dear god no.”
Trump himself tweeted that the “Fake News Media” was “working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2019
The manifesto was loaded with internet jargon and online jokes mixed with extremist views on race and immigration, or as the New York Times called it, “a wordy mixture of white nationalist boilerplate, fascist declarations and references to obscure internet jokes.”
Conway was asked by Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker whether she was concerned that urging people to read the manifesto — which most media outlets have avoided quoting extensively or providing links to — risked giving wider exposure to the shooter’s ideology.
She responded by email:
“This is a complete misconstruing that ignores the facts.
My suggestion that people should read the entire manifesto and not cherry-pick a line here or there to support their own points of views and wishful thinking was directed at those who are blaming POTUS, including the media.
Those who invoke the manifesto should be more forthcoming, honest and complete in their ‘reporting’ about the manifesto. The media have already raised awareness of the manifesto by injecting a self-serving mention of the manifesto by cherry-picking that one part. So the question logically may be for you, not me.”
The New Zealand shooter’s document cites the writings of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian far-right extremist who killed 77 people in 2011. It was the second instance in as many months of Breivik’s anti-immigrant work being cited. He was also an inspiration for Christopher Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested in February and accused of plotting killings “on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
“In an age of saturation news coverage, manifestos might contribute to the copycat effect, a well-supported theory that holds people will act out violence in patterns similar to the violence they see,” wrote J.M Berger, who studies extremism, following the Hasson arrest. “A lengthy manifesto, such as Breivik’s, which melds operational and ideological elements, can produce a much longer and more intense news cycle than a mass killer who leaves no explanation behind. We have less to say about a ‘senseless’ act of violence. A manifesto caters to our instinctive desire to seek the origin of such horrors, yet that quest for understanding might exacerbate the problem.”
The New Zealand shooter is not the first alleged terrorist who explicitly or implicitly was inspired by Trump. In October, a Trump supporter was arrested for allegedly mailing pipe bombs to critics of the president and prominent Democratic figures. The man, Cesar Sayoc Jr., is expected to plead guilty this week. The shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people last fall was carried out by an anti-immigration zealot who targeted the congregation because it was involved in a program that helped resettle refugees. The attack occurred in the heat of a midterm election during which Trump was demonizing a group of Central American migrants as invaders, a term he used again on Friday.
While Trump extended his condolences to those in New Zealand, he also downplayed white nationalism.
“I don’t really, I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess,” said Trump. “If you look what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet … but it’s certainly a terrible thing.”
Trump also spent the weekend defending Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, whose show did not air Saturday after she made Islamophobic comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
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