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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said there is “no question” that the Trump administration’s “damaging rhetoric” has led to “elevated threats against Asian Americans.”
“I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration — blaming, calling COVID the ‘Wuhan virus’ or other things led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair and … has elevated threats against Asian Americans,” Psaki said during a press briefing.
The press secretary’s comments came one day after a Tuesday-night shooting spree at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six Asian-American women. However, officials said Wednesday the attack may not have been racially motivated as previously thought.
Shooting suspect Robert Aaron Long took “full responsibility” for the shootings, police said, adding that while the rampage was initially believed to be part of a rising number of hate crimes against Asian Americans, Long allegedly opened fire at the spas because he saw them as “an outlet for him” to feed a sex-addiction temptation that he was trying to “eliminate.”
Psaki noted that while authorities have said it is too early to say whether the attacks were a hate crime, that “doesn’t change the fact that this news is horrific and, broadly speaking, there has been an increase … in attacks and crimes and hate crimes as well in other circumstances against Asian Americans.”
She noted that the Department of Justice is conducting listening sessions with members of the Asian American community to “determine how that should impact policies moving forward.”
Psaki added that there is an “ongoing review of domestic violent extremism that is wide-ranging.”
A November FBI report revealed hate crimes in the U.S. rose to the highest level in more than a decade in 2019, a year that also saw the highest number of hate-motivated killings since the FBI began collecting that information in the early 1990s.
In 2019, there were 51 hate crime murders, including the deaths of 22 people who were killed in a shooting that targeted Mexicans at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Authorities say the El Paso shooter’s intention was to attempt to scare Hispanic people into leaving the U.S.
The perpetrators of a number of racially motivated massacres, including the El Paso shootings, as well as the 2015 killing of nine members of the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, have left behind manifestos detailing their motivations.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said that eight women were killed in the shootings in Atlanta on Tuesday, when in fact seven women and one man were killed in the shootings. We regret the error.