A terrorist attack left 49 people dead on Friday at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The attack, which took place around the time of congregational prayer, was streamed live on Facebook and then posted to YouTube. A 74-page manifesto released by a man claiming responsibility makes clear that the attack was motivated by white supremacist ideology. Three armed suspects were being held in custody, although the extent of their involvement is unclear. One male in his late 20s has been charged with murder. The story is still developing.
President Trump responded on Twitter early Friday morning. “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques,” he wrote. “49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
Trump awkwardly wishing the people of New Zealand “best wishes” in the wake of a terrorist attack isn’t out of character. As Crooked Media’s Brian Beutler points out on Twitter, the president wished “best regards” to those injured following the 2017 neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, he told victims to “have a good time.”
Twenty-two minutes after sending his “best wishes” to the people of New Zealand, Trump tweeted about what he claims is a “Jexodus” of Jewish people leaving the Democratic party before moving on to complaining about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!” Trump wrote of how he has been treated by the Department of Justice.
…..THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
The White House released a response making clear that it does not endorse the slaughter of 49 innocent people. “The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.” National Security Adviser John Bolton is so far the only member of the administration to suggest the coordinated attack that left 49 dead was a terrorist attack. “We’re obviously greatly disturbed by what seems to be a terror attack, this hate crime, in New Zealand,” he said while speaking to reporters in front of the White House.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wasn’t so hesitant. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” she said, adding that citizens should be “vigilant against extreme ideology and extreme violent acts” and that the attack represents “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “We are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged,” by the tragedy. He also confirmed that one of the suspects is an Australian-born citizen. Morrison described the shooting as an “extremist right-wing violent terrorist attack.”
Back in the United States, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) keyed on the shooting taking place at two mosques, recalling recent shootings at houses of worship in the United States. “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” she wrote.
At 1st I thought of saying, “Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.”
But I couldn’t say “imagine.”
Because of Charleston.
What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?pic.twitter.com/2mSw0azDN8
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 15, 2019
She added that “thoughts and prayers” is not directed toward Prime Minister Ardern; it is in “reference to the NRA’s phrase used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who in November became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), expressed solidarity with the Muslim community. “This is chilling news to wake up to,” she wrote. “In the face of this horror, I’m mourning with, and holding our community extra close today.”
Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. This is chilling news to wake up to. In the face of this horror, I’m mourning with, and holding our community extra close today.
We must not live in fear. I will be at Jumu’ah today and I hope others will too. Jummah Mubarak.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 15, 2019
Several other prominent lawmakers from both parties have released statements or weighed in on Twitter.
Charleston, Pittsburgh, and now Christchurch. Everyone should have the right to worship without fear, and an attack on a place of worship is terrorism perpetrated against all of us. My heart goes out to the people of New Zealand today.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 15, 2019
We don't back down in the face of Islamophobia and racism at home or abroad. We stand up, stand together and make it clear that terrorism won't be met with indifference but with action that honors our diversity as the people of the world. Thinking of our friends in New Zealand.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) March 15, 2019
An attack on people as they pray peacefully, however they worship and wherever they are, is an attack on us all. May every New Zealander and every Muslim hurting today feel lifted up in love and solidarity.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) March 15, 2019
Violent extremism of every kind must be condemned,rejected & defeated.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 15, 2019
We mourn with the people of New Zealand in the face of such evil today. It’s clear hate has no religion, & we must all stand united against terrorism. My thoughts & prayers are with the victims, their families, & the Christchurch community.
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) March 15, 2019
This post will be updated as the story develops.