Throughout the morning on Friday, CNN repeatedly tied the mosque shooting in New Zealand to President Trump. This type of coverage continued well into the primetime hours; with guests on Anderson Cooper 360 comparing President Trump to a white supremacist as well as the shooter that killed dozens of Muslims in New Zealand.
Reporting from the White House, Jim Acosta talked about how Kellyanne Conway was “urging reporters to read the entire manifesto and that there were parts of the manifesto that said that this killer was an ecoterrorist” before complaining that she was “looking past the language in this manifesto that was describing the President as…sort of a hero to people who identify with their white heritage.”
Acosta continued: “what was also striking, Anderson, in that manifesto, was that the killer was using terms like ‘invaders’ and ‘invasion’ when talking about immigration and the immigration issue; almost the same kind of language that the President was using earlier today when he was vetoing that legislation up on Capitol Hill.”
Cooper’s guests went even farther, effectively accusing President Trump of harboring white supremacist ideology. According to Washington Post columnist Max Boot, “He has done and said a lot of things that are very congruent with the kind of ideology that these white supremacists actually have.” Boot argued that their rhetoric wasn’t “exactly the same” before adding “there is enough overlap there that they take inspiration from his words.”
CNN Political Commentator and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers had a similar take: “I don’t think you can blame Donald Trump for this attack, I think you can blame Donald Trump for really trafficking in bigotry and, you know, islamophobia, wanting to ban all Muslims as he said during the campaign,” adding “they have maybe some things in common in terms of how they think about people.” Powers has a very broad definition of “Islamophobia,” she had previously argued that any criticism of Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was Islamophobic and sexist.
Later, Cooper complained that President Trump did not explicitly condemn white supremacy, arguing that “rather than just saying I condemn all forms of something,” he should “get specific, at least to try to make it clear to people who are using his name to, to, you know, push their own racist ideology.”
The conversation ended with Boot smearing President Trump’s supporters as Islamophobes, alleging that “anti-Islamic sentiment finds a receptive audience in a lot of his base,” adding “the fact that Donald Trump…is really an Islamophobe is something that a lot of his base applauds and he doesn’t want to challenge…their prejudices.” It looks like the media will not shed their anti-Trump “prejudices” anytime soon.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of Anderson Cooper 360 is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Anderson Cooper 360
ANDERSON COOPER: President Trump reached out to the New Zealand Prime Minister today saying the United States stands, “ready to help.” The killer’s manifesto, meantime, mentions President Trump, calling him “a symbol of white renewed identity and common purpose.” Jim Acosta has the White House for us tonight. Jim, has the White House said anything about the reference to the President in this so-called manifesto?
JIM ACOSTA: Well, the President was asked about it, Anderson, and he said he hadn’t read it. But the White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, she was asked about this earlier in the day, and she was urging reporters to read the entire manifesto and that there were parts of the manifesto that said that this killer was an ecoterrorist, she said, and so on. She was really looking past the language in this manifesto that was describing the President as, as sort of a hero to people who identify with their white heritage. And what was also striking, Anderson, in that manifesto was that the killer was using terms like “invaders” and “invasion” when talking about immigration and the immigration issue, almost the same kind of language that the President was using earlier today when he was vetoing that legislation up on Capitol Hill, rebuking his use of a national emergency declaration to build his wall on the border. So, the White House can’t whitewash the white nationalism every time, Anderson.
COOPER: I mean, as we heard earlier, the President claimed today that, that white nationalism is not a rising threat in his opinion around the world.
ACOSTA: That’s right. And that obviously stood out as just being, being contrary to the facts. As we know from recent studies and even FBI statistics in just the last couple of years, that all shows that white nationalism, that right-wing extremism is on the rise not only here in the United States but around the world. If you look at what’s happened here in the U.S. in the last few years, whether it’s the neo-Nazi violence on the streets of Charlottesville, the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last year, Anderson, even the pipe bomb, attempted pipe bomb attack on CNN and other Democratic targets, Anderson, that is right-wing extremism violence, and the kind that is on the rise here in the U.S. and around the world, whether or not the President likes to admit to it or not. Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks. I want to get perspective now from USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers, and Washington Post columnist Max Boot, the author of The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right. Max, what do you think it is about the President that, that prompts white nationalists and white supremacists to use his rhetoric whether or not, you know, as a vehicle to promote violence even if it’s not what the President intended?
MAX BOOT: Well, I mean, this is a President, Anderson, who has built his entire political career on racism and anti-Islamic bigotry. I mean, remember, he rose as a political candidate with this crazy birtherism theory about Barack Obama, but he also did it by calling for a complete and total shutdown of all Muslims coming into the United States. He said that Islam hates us. He has done and said a lot of things that are very congruent with the kind of ideology that these white supremacists actually have, which is not to say that it’s exactly the same thing. But I think there is enough overlap there that they take inspiration from his words.
COOPER: You know, Kirsten, normally, you know, I would say it’s hard to draw a straight line from what these terrorists are espousing to what a President has, has said. You know, to blame him if others choose to use his words in ways that, that he’s not at least explicitly saying. Then today, just as he’s talking about this and on this day when New Zealand and people around the world are mourning and this, you know, this person in New Zealand did this talking about invaders, the President is talking about invaders.
KIRSTEN POWERS: Right, yeah. Yeah, certainly, they, they share concerns, right? I think that’s fair enough to say. I don’t think you can blame Donald Trump for this attack.
POWERS: I think you can blame Donald Trump for really trafficking in bigotry and, you know, you know, anti… Islamophobia, wanting to ban all Muslims as he said during the campaign. So they’re, they’re, they have maybe some things in common in terms of how they think about people. That doesn’t make him responsible for this but that doesn’t make him not responsible for the things that he says. And the idea that the President of the United States can say things, constantly attacking different groups of people and demonizing them and treating them as invaders into the country, facts be damned, you know, I think it just would be silly to pretend that that doesn’t have any impact on anybody. And whatever, however Donald Trump identifies himself, we, all we know for sure is that the white supremacists see him as an ally. So, there’s just no question about that. You know, Rosie Gray wrote a story a while back around the Charlottesville incident interviewing different leaders in the alt, so-called alt-right, white supremacist movement. And they heard him quite clearly, what he said. They were very energized by him saying there’s very fine people on both sides. So, and he’s not a dummy, right? I mean, he does understand what he’s doing. He does understand when he says these things that these people are energized. And then he chooses to not stop. He chooses to not condemn them. He chooses to not go out of his way to identify this threat in this country, which is a large threat…
POWERS: …which is white nationalism.
COOPER: It’s also interesting, Max, I mean, you know, in the wake of Charlottesville as we’ve talked about often, you know, he had…there were two opportunities he had in which to just full stop say, you know, this is abhorrent, white supremacists, there’s, you know, white nationalism, there’s, there’s no room for it in America. And yet both times, he kind of went off script and said, you know, very fine people on both sides. It was interesting to hear George W. Bush, to replay earlier what we did, George W. Bush several days after 9/11 inside a mosque definitively saying, you know, you know, the people who would attack somebody who’s wearing a hijab is not, that’s not America. It’s, you know, the worst of humanity.
BOOT: Right. That was a real service to play that clip, Anderson, because it was a reminder of how a normal President…
BOOT: …is supposed to sound and it reminds you of how different Donald Trump is from a normal President. One of the striking things about him is that he has a real double standard when it comes to acts of violence, because we know whenever there’s any attack perpetrated anywhere in the world by somebody of the Muslim faith, he is immediately on Twitter screaming about radical Islamic terrorism. But when it comes to something like this, he says, oh, it’s a terrible, terrible thing, as if it’s a natural disaster, but he never names the thing, Anderson. He never says what is that terrible thing, which we know is anti-Muslim bigotry, which we know is white supremacist ideology. He doesn’t call that out.
BOOT: And by not calling it out, he is tacitly somehow giving a license to it and not just failing to call it out, he is not devoting the resources of the federal government towards combating this menace. I mean, think of how many efforts we make to stop jihadist terrorism and that’s appropriate, that is a real threat. But we don’t have a comparable effort in this government to combat right-wing, white supremacist terrorism, even though, as Ali Soufan was pointing out in the previous segment, 70 percent of the victims of terrorism in this country in the last ten years have been victims of radical right-wing terrorism. That’s a threat hiding in plain sight which we’re ignoring and Donald Trump seems to have no interest in tackling that threat.
COOPER: Yeah, I mean, Kirsten, if, you know, the President knows that his words are being used by white nationalists, whether it’s fair or not, you would think he would want to, you know, give a speech and just lay it all out, you know, naming names of who does not speak for him and, you know, why he finds things reprehensible. I mean, rather than just saying I condemn all forms of something, to actually get specific, at least to try to make it clear to people who are using his name to, to, you know, push their own racist ideology.
POWERS: But he’s been given opportunities to do this. I mean, I remember when the journalist Julia Ioffe was under attack because she wrote a critical piece about, or she wrote a piece about Melania that Melania found critical and her supporters found critical and, and she was getting death threats and all these anti-Semitic attacks that were just absolutely heinous. And he was asked about it. And he said I don’t have a message for my fans. So, you know, he had an opportunity there to condemn it. And not only did he not condemn it, he accepted that these people…
COOPER: …his fans.
POWERS: …are his fans.
POWERS: And, you know, so I think that if he…you’re right, if he wanted to do that, he would do that. He understands what’s going on. This is not some, he’s not just some clueless person who doesn’t see what’s happening. He is intentionally not condemning it the way he condemns all of these other things that he claims are happening, like the national emergency that isn’t an emergency but he will talk about pretty much everything that bothers him but this.
BOOT: Right. And I would say that the way that he winks at or does more than wink at, really encourages this anti-Islamic sentiment finds a receptive audience in a lot of his base. I mean, just think of what’s happened in the last few weeks where you had Jeanine Pirro on Fox News saying that it was, you know, un-American essentially to wear a hijab, attacking a Muslim Congresswoman or you had the comments that surfaced with Tucker Carlson calling Iraqis primitive monkeys. I mean, so the fact that Donald Trump is, has, is really an Islamophobe is something that a lot of his base applauds and he doesn’t want to challenge their, their prejudices.
COOPER: Max Boot, Kirsten Powers, thank you.