WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump offered sympathy and his administration's assistance Friday to the people of New Zealand following deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, calling it "a horrible massacre."
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
While Trump offered condolences, he denied that white nationalism was a rising threat. "I think it's a small group of people that have a very, very serious problem," he said.
The attack during Friday prayers left 49 people dead and dozens of others wounded. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the act, the country's deadliest mass shooting, as terrorism.
White House national security adviser John Bolton characterized the shooting as "what seems to be a terrorist attack" and a "hate crime." He said the United States was in touch with New Zealand authorities and its embassy in Wellington, and was following the events "very closely."
At a news conference, Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that Muslims "have very legitimate fears and they are being told to be afraid by white supremacists and political leaders who believe in white supremacy." But he urged American Muslims to continue their worship during Friday prayers.
Awad said those who incite violence want Muslims to be fearful, but he was confident that authorities were doing all they could to protect mosques.
Vanderbilt University professor Jonathan Metzl, who studies mass shootings and hate crimes, said he believed anti-immigrant and anti-minority political rhetoric have driven white nationalist ideas mainstream.
"What I worry about is not just these online communities, which have been there for a long time. It's also the ways in which this particular violence against vulnerable minority communities and the rhetoric that underlies it has become much more normalized in our political sphere," he said.
Metzl, author of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America's Heartland, said, "These shootings are extreme reflections of the increased rise of white nationalist rhetoric."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was increasing police presence at mosques around the city, even though "there is no specific or credible threat at this time."
While there is no specific or credible threat at this time, we are increasing our NYPD presence at mosques throughout the city out of an abundance of caution. New Yorkers heading to prayer can be confident that their city will protect them. https://t.co/RGMsbXQH3p— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 15, 2019
?New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced increased police presence at mosques around the state, "as a precaution."
My heart breaks for the victims of the horrific attack in New Zealand. In the wake of this disgusting act of bigoted violence, which appears to be rooted in Islamophobia, New York stands with the Muslim community as we always have and always will. pic.twitter.com/44EmdaoH1o— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 15, 2019
U.S. lawmakers from both parties weighed in, with many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates tweeting their condolences and condemnation of acts of hate and violence.
California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted that the massacre of "those in a house of worship, in prayer, is evil & cowardly."
My heart is heavy with grief for New Zealand & Muslims worldwide affected by the tragic murders in Christchurch. The massacre of those in a house of worship, in prayer, is evil & cowardly. We stand with our friends around the world to condemn hate & speak out against intolerance.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 15, 2019
"We don't back down in the face of Islamophobia and racism at home or abroad," tweeted former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, saying that "terrorism won't be met with indifference."
We don%27t 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%27t 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%27Rourke (@BetoORourke) March 15, 2019
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders urged people to come together to condemn "all forms of hate and violence" and said that no people should have to fear for their life because of their religion.
Our thoughts are with the victims of the horrific attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. No one should have to fear for their life because of their religion. We must come together to condemn all forms of hate and violence to build a future of respect and understanding.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 15, 2019
House Republicans also tweeted their condemnation, prayers and calls for solidarity.
Disgraceful, murderous attack in New Zealand mosque must be condemned by everyone who respects human life & decency. These murderers are lowest of the low. Thoughts & prayers must be with families & friends of the victims, the members of the Mosque and all New Zealanders. R.I.P.— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) March 15, 2019
I am heartbroken for my Muslim friends & cannot imagine their sadness as they awake to this terrible news. The attacks in New Zealand remind us again that hate & radicalism have no boundaries. Americans stand united with New Zealand during this difficult time. #NewZealandShooting— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) 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