The White House pushed back on Sunday against any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the accused shooter who killed 50 people in two New Zealand mosques, saying the act of a disturbed individual cannot be blamed on any one politician.
"The president is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that," White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday."
Trump on Friday condemned the "horrible massacre" at the mosques and the White House called the shooting a "vicious act of hate."
Asked by a reporter on Friday if he sees white nationalism as a rising threat around the world, Trump said: "I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people."
The accused gunman’s manifesto praised the US president as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose," even though he did not support his policies. The reference revived criticism that Trump has not been strong enough in condemning hate speech and has fomented anti-Muslim sentiment.
"I don't think it's fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump," Mulvaney said. "Any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi or Ms Ocasio-Cortez," a Democratic congresswoman.
"This was a disturbed individual, an evil person," he said.
According to Reuters news agency, Trump drew strong criticism in the days after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters and saying "both sides" were to blame.
"Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists—and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn't normal or acceptable," Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said on Twitter after Friday's mosque shootings.