President Donald Trump accused "the fake news media" Monday of attempting to blame him for last week's mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand.
"The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand," Trump tweeted. "They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!"
The president's tweet comes days after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more in an act of terrorism. The shooter, identified as 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, has been charged by New Zealand police with one count of murder. Tarrant, an Australian citizen, allegedly praised Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" and referred to immigrants as "invaders within our lands" in a 74-page manifesto filled with hateful rhetoric that he appeared to post on social media before the attack.
In the aftermath of the shooting, a number of Democrats including Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan condemned the president for failing to condemn white nationalism and Islamophobia and suggested his incendiary language bears some responsibility for the violence. They also urged the president to take a stronger stance against anti-Muslim bigotry.
Trump offered his "warmest sympathy" and "best wishes" to New Zealand in a Friday tweet, calling the massacre a senseless loss of life. Later that day, he told reporters in the Oval Office he does not believe that white nationalism is a rising and becoming a widespread threat around the world.
"I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess," Trump said. "It's certainly a terrible thing."
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended the commander-in-chief on Sunday, calling allegations that Trump's rhetoric on immigration influenced the mass shooting in New Zealand "absurd."
"The president is not a white supremacist," Mulvaney said in an interview that aired Sunday on Fox News. "I'm not sure how many times we have to say that."
Meanwhile, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway dismissed allegations that Trump inspired the New Zealand massacre as "predictable and outrageous" in an interview Monday with "Fox & Friends." She then urged Fox News viewers to read the New Zealand gunman's "entire" terror-filled dossier — even though multiple studies have revealed that focusing on the identities of mass shooters and their possible motivations may inspire future attacks because some perpetrators are inspired by infamy and notoriety to carry out an attack. Conway, however, claimed that a thorough examination of the white nationalist manuscript would prove the shooter did not draw inspiration from Trump.
"Unlike like most mass shootings, this man came with pre-receipts, if you will. He put out a 70-page manifesto, and I guess everybody scoured it, searched for Donald Trump's name and there it is — one time," Conway 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. He's — I think he referred to himself as an eco-naturalist or an eco-fascist. But people should read the entire — in its entirety."
Conway then compared the shooting in New Zealand to the time Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was shot in June 2017 as Republican lawmakers practiced for the annual Congressional Baseball Game between Democrats and Republicans — an event she called "the worst day" of the administration's first year in the White House.
"We didn't run around saying, 'Gee, the guy watches MSNBC, or he's Bernie supporter,'" Conway said. "Nobody should do that. Nobody should blame folks other than the evil, hateful shooter."
Conway also blasted those who are blaming the president for the New Zealand attack.
"Folks, if you're not expert on this, stop weighing in like you are," she said. "We don't need to hear your opinion on every single thing."