FBI Director Christopher Wray’s comments on domestic terrorism have been twisted by the mainstream media to represent a break with President Donald Trump and attacks on Trump’s record on race.
At a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee Thursday, Wray was asked whether and to what degree white supremacists and violent extremism pose a threat to Americans.
“The danger, I think, of white supremacists, violent extremism, or any other kind of violent extremism, is, of course, significant,” Wray said. “It’s a persistent, pervasive threat. We tackle it both through our joint terrorism task forces on the domestic side as well as the civil rights program on the criminal side through hate crime enforcement.”
BuzzFeed’s Salvador Hernandez seemed not to hear the part about “any other kind of violent extremism.” The lead on his story read: “White supremacists and violent extremism pose a ‘persistent, pervasive threat’ to the US, FBI Director Chris Wray told members of Congress on Thursday. His comments broke from those of President Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed the threat.”
“Wray’s comments stand in stark contrast to how Trump has referred to white supremacist movements and violence despite a number of high-profile cases during his presidency.”
Hernandez pointed to Trump’s response after attacks by a white supremacist in New Zealand that left 50 dead to a question about whether white nationalism was a growing problem. “I don’t really,” the president said. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
BuzzFeed then again falsely said, “Trump defended racists who marched in Charlottesville and sparked riots.”
What Trump said was “You also had some very fine people on both sides. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. The press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group, you also had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper said the president “is just factually wrong” when he claims the threat is not growing. He cited a report from the far-left Anti-Defamation League saying that “white supremacist incidents” had increased 182 percent from 2017 to 2018.
He then turned to panelist Mehdi Hasan, who works for CNN and the Intercept. “I’m not surprised to see Trump say it’s not rising because he’s an elected politician,” Hasan said. “And the No. 1 rule of elected politicians is ‘Don’t criticize your base.’ These people are his base, I’m sorry to say. … He may not be a white nationalist, but the white nationalists think he’s a white nationalist. He has the support of all these groups. He’s never going to own up to that obviously.”
PolitiFact examined Trump’s claim and could not conclude he was wrong. It put the shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue in a category with the shootings of Dylann Roof of African-Americans in a church in Charleston, S.C., and the Charlottesville riots, even though they were carried out by an avowed leftist and Trump hater. It did not mention the left-wing shooter who tried to kill multiple Republican members of Congress at a softball practice in Alexandria, Va.
It also stated there is a difference between groups on the right that focus on religious beliefs or smaller government and those that call for violence and that attacks on Jews have come from a variety of sources, including jihadists, Palestinian terrorists and Hezbollah. It cited one study that said terrorist attacks in the U.S. averaged five per year form 2011, then increased to 14 per year in 2012 and 31 per year in 2017, which, in a country of more than 330 million people, suggest Trump is correct that the threat is small and not appreciably growing.
It also noted that the biggest period of increase in attacks came before Trump was elected.