Donald Trump demanded countless times that we all scream the words “radical Islamic terrorism” in order to counter that threat. As Trump repeatedly stated, “To solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is, or at least say the name.”
That makes it even more hypocritical that Trump refuses to utter words “access to guns” or even “guns” when he addresses mass shootings. And in case of the horrific shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, there’s another set of words Trump should be saying but he won’t: white supremacist violence.
But there was Trump giving a speech Thursday in response to this gun massacre where he gave us words like “violence” and “evil.” He even—without a hint of irony—told America to “answer hate with love; answer cruelty with kindness.” And he vowed to “secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
Yet Trump left out the words that needed to be said to show he was truly sincere. It reminded me of Trump’s statement on Wednesday regarding his former White House Aide Rob Porter, when he finally announced after days of criticism that he opposed violence against women but he never mentioned the word “women.”
It’s no surprise that Trump refuses to address either guns or white supremacists, given he has courted lovers of both during his campaign and presidency. That’s why after the Las Vegas gun massacre that left 58 people dead, when Trump was asked about changing gun laws to save lives, he responded, “We’re not going to talk about that today,’ adding, “We won’t talk about that.”
Same thing after the Nov. 5, 2017, mass shooting in a Texas church that saw 26 people brutally shot to death. In fact, Trump pushed back at even the notion that guns had anything to do with this mass shooting, instead stating this, “isn’t a guns situation” but “a mental health problem.”
Trump is clearly earning the $31 million that the NRA spent to help him get to the White House. And with the NRA boasting over five million members, an unpopular president like Trump can’t afford to lose any support.
And then there’s white supremacy. If the reports prove to be accurate, the gunman who took 17 lives Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz, was a member of a white supremacist organization based in Florida known as the Republic of Florida (ROF). Per the Southern Poverty Law Center, ROF is “a white civil rights organization” that wants “a white ethnostate so we can be free from anti-white policies and have policies that reflect our values as white westerners.”
The white supremacist group’s leader, Jordan Jereb, described the ROF as “a white separatist paramilitary proto-fascist organization.” And three of Cruz’s former classmates confirmed to ABC News that Cruz was in fact a member of ROF and had reported seeing Cruz march with ROF members including the ROF’s leader Jereb.
Now, I’m not saying this was a white supremacist terror attack. And as the writing of this article the police have still not confirmed that Cruz was indeed a member of the ROF.
Even if Cruz wasn’t an active member of such a group, it’s pretty clear he had such views. And if it turns out that he was an active member of a white supremacist organization, you can forget Trump slamming that group or its vile ideology. And for good reason—the leaders of these groups love Trump. After all he has given these organizations a “Trump bump” in terms of both membership and by emboldening them. We all recall Trump retweeting white supremacists during his campaign.
Of course, there was Trump after the white supremacist terror attack in Charlottesville, equating white supremacists with those opposing racism by saying both groups contained “very fine people.” That earned Trump praise from white supremacists such as former Klan leader David Duke who tweeted in response, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”
We have seen a long list of deadly acts of violence committed by people who follow that evil ideology on Trump’s watch, yet he still refuses to say the words: white supremacist terrorism. As the Anti-Defamation League recently documented, out of the 34 extremist-related deaths on U.S. soil in 2017, 18 were caused by white supremacists. Nine were caused by Islamic extremists.
Adding to the concern is that the ADL has found a bone-chilling spike in white supremacist activities on college campuses since the fall of 2016. Prior to that time, the ADL noted that their activity on campuses was almost non-existent. But since Trump’s campaign and during his presidency, the ADL has recorded 346 incidents of white supremacist propaganda such as fliers, stickers, banners, and posters on college campuses in 44 states. And Cruz’s state of Florida had seen the fifth highest number of incidents in the country, such as in August 2017 at the Miami-Dade College-Kendall campus, when a white supremacist group disrupted a pro-immigration event.
These white supremacist groups may not be terrorist groups per se, but the hateful rhetoric they spew is clearly leading some people to the doorstep of violence. It doesn’t take much from there to incite them to take that next deadly step. And when you add easy access to guns, you have created a toxic and deadly combination.
But let’s be blunt, despite the pleas we are seeing today for Trump to act from across the spectrum to show some actual leadership, don’t expect Trump to stand up to either the NRA or white supremacists. Trump is a coward both personally and politically. And the sad reality is that he is more concerned with his catering to his base than saving the lives of our children.