President Donald Trump is usually quick to react on social media whenever a terrorist attack occurs. Yet he’s been unusually silent when it comes to attacks involving white perpetrators, including a shooting this week at a Waffle House near Nashville, Tennessee, and a van killing 10 individuals in Toronto, Ontario.
Trump has, in fact, tweeted more than a dozen times since the Waffle House shooting occurred on Sunday morning. In none of those tweets has he mentioned the shooter or the event itself, nor the hero of the event, James Shaw Jr.
A quick search on WhiteHouse.gov also yields limited results of Trump making an official statement on the shooting. Just one result at all comes up: a statement made by the president through his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“The President offers his condolences to the victims and their families,” Sanders said. “He is monitoring the ongoing situation, and the White House is in regular contact with state and local officials.”
That is a reasoned statement that any other president would have made, but it’s not the typical response from Trump, who, under other circumstances, would have tweeted several times by now about a terrorist attack.
Trump has also been unusually silent about a van that drove into a crowd of people on a street in Toronto earlier this week. When a similar attack occurred in New York City last year, claiming the lives of eight individuals, Trump was on Twitter within hours decrying the suspect, who he assumed was an agent of ISIS.
In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2017
Trump did offer his "deepest sympathies" to the victims in Toronto during a statement to the press alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, but he didn't touch upon the suspect himself.
Why is Trump so eager and fixated on pointing out other terrorist attacks but not the ones from earlier this week? The murders this week perpetrated by Travis Reinking and Alek Minassian can certainly be described as such, given what we know at the moment about each suspect.
It appears that Reinking has alt-right viewpoints, including subscribing to the “sovereign citizen” movement and apparently targeting only people of color in his shooting earlier this week. Minassian also subscribed to the "incel" movement, which has its roots in an alt-right philosophy.
Trump is unusually reserved on both attacks, but in other instances where the assailant happened to be Muslim, he was more than willing to make broad accusations without first knowing all of the facts.
Why the difference? The obvious answer here is that Trump only cares to comment on terrorism when it fits his own narrative. Tweeting incessantly about Muslim terrorists (whether spouting off correct information or not) helps him in reinforcing his anti-Muslim, anti-immigration stances. But denouncing a right-wing terrorist would only serve to hurt him with what appears to be his base of support — and thus, he’s more hesitant to do so.
We’ve seen this demonstrated in the past. Trump opted to condemn “both sides” when violence erupted during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, even as the sole death from that event came when an alt-right supporter drove his car into a crowd of individuals who came to protest peacefully against the far-right rally.
We should not act surprised when Trump behaves inconsistently regarding far-right-wing violence. But we should act indignant and appalled when he does so, pointing out the hypocrisy and the purposeful blindness to a growing problem in the United States that the president doesn’t seem to want to deal with.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Yuri Gripas/Reuters