WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said there's no sign of a conspiracy in the mosque attacks that killed 50 people in New Zealand, and he rejected suggestions that President Donald Trump has failed to speak out against white supremacists.
"We have no indication that this is part of a larger conspiracy," Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday." He said there's been no proposal for added security around mosques in the U.S. in response to the "truly sorrowful and tragic event."
Mulvaney appeared to be saying there's no plot extending beyond New Zealand, as he later noted there is "concern that other folks might be involved down there."
He blamed the attacks in Christchurch on "a disturbed individual, an evil person" and condemned as "absurd" the idea of connecting the killer and Trump's hard-line rhetoric on immigrants and "Islamic terrorists." "The president is not a white supremacist," Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney said in a separate appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the question is "how do you stop these crazy people" who are "willing to go on live TV and stream the murder of people."
He said "Donald Trump is no more to blame for what happened in New Zealand than Mark Zuckerberg," the chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., whose platform the gunman used to live-stream his killings.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she plans to take up the issue directly with Facebook. The social media platform said it removed 1.5 million videos of the footage within 24 hours of the shootings.
Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan slammed Trump for telling reporters Friday that white supremacists are only a "a small group of people that have very, very serious problems." "There's too many deaths," Tlaib, who is Muslim, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
She said the president "needs to speak up and condemn this very loudly and very clearly." Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said Trump uses language often similar to that of racists and bigots, and if he's not going to call them out, other leaders must.
While Trump didn't create white nationalists, his comments can encourage them, Kaine said.
"The president is using language that emboldens them,'' Kaine said on "Face the Nation." Jeh Johnson, who was Homeland Security secretary under President Barack Obama, didn't criticise Trump directly but said political leaders and candidates for president have a responsibility to promote civil speech.
"There's a role for our leaders to play in raising the level of civil dialogue in our country and lowering the levels of extremist speech," Johnson said on ABC's "This Week." "Americans do listen to their leaders.''