WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Sunday championed a Fox News personality who made anti-Muslim remarks as his White House rejected any attempt to link the US leader to a shooter who killed 50 people in two New Zealand mosques.
The violence against Muslims in New Zealand on Friday put a spotlight on Mr Trump’s rhetoric about Islam and revived criticism of his handling of white supremacist violence.
“Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro,” Mr Trump wrote in Twitter posts in which he blamed Democrats for trying to “silence a majority of our Country” and advocated supporters to “stop working soooo hard on being politically correct.”
At the same time, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney appeared on Sunday television news shows to tamp down criticism that Mr Trump has not been strong enough in condemning hate speech and has fomented anti-Muslim sentiment.
On Friday, Mr Trump condemned the “horrible massacre” at the mosques and the White House called the shooting a “vicious act of hate.” Asked by a reporter if he saw white nationalism as a rising threat around the world, Mr Trump said: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people.”
The accused gunman praised Mr Trump in a manifesto as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
Mr Mulvaney said the mosque massacres were the work of a disturbed individual and it would not be fair to align the shooter with Mr Trump or any other politician.
Mr 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 said “both sides” were to blame.
Ms Pirro, a supporter of the president, was rebuked by Fox News last Sunday over comments she made questioning whether a Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, was more loyal to Islamic sharia law than the US Constitution.
Ms Pirro’s show, “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” was removed from its usual time slot on Saturday night.