President Donald Trump went to church on Sunday, and the Washington Post published a piece taking pot shots at him for doing so.
“Perhaps the president had the 50 victims of an apparently racist massacre in New Zealand on his mind,” wrote Anne Gearan of the Post in “A church service on a blue-skied Sunday interrupts Trump’s weekend of presidential pique.”
“Perhaps he was drawn to the St. Patrick’s Day-themed elements of Sunday’s service, which included Irish hymns. Or perhaps Sunday’s dip into presidential custom and ritual served more to point up the ways Trump’s presidency defies custom.”
After all, Gearan wrote, Trump does not seem to have been affected much by the murderous rampage at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In fact, the president offered whatever the U.S. could to help in a phone call with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, called the massacre “a horrible, horrible thing” on Friday, then, in answer to a question about whether the killings indicated white nationalism was on the rise, said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
Gearan then wrote that Trump “described the massacre as horrible on Friday but said he does not consider white nationalism to be on the rise, despite the findings of experts, including within his own government.”
Gearan did not supply the names of any experts within government who have said white nationalism is on the rise. Her piece linked to an article on Daily Beast from last August that said the Ku Klux Klan has 5,000-8,000 members nationwide. Estimates of Nazis are even smaller, and even the Southern Poverty Law Center says the numbers are declining.
“Other U.S. presidents have decried horror abroad as an affront to values shared among liberal democratic allies, but Trump has made no major address to mourn those gunned down last week as they worshiped at mosques in New Zealand,” Gearan wrote. “He has not condemned the professed white-supremacist motives of the accused killer.”
Instead, Trump spent the hours before and after going to church “rallying his most loyal supporters around his nationalist agenda against illegal immigration, attacking a familiar list of perceived enemies and adding new ones, all while casting himself as a victim of unfair attacks,” Gearan wrote.
Trump did not answer shouted questions from reporters about what message he was sending by attending church, “so the only clues to his mood came in splenetic tweets that began three hours before the service and resumed shortly afterward,” she wrote.
She also took care to point out “Trump rarely attends church, instead frequently playing golf on Sundays at one of his eponymous private clubs. His outings have outpaced those of President Barack Obama, whose frequent trips to the golf course Trump long criticized.”
She then recounted a list of Trump tweets on the day – defending Fox News personality Jeannie Pirro, whose show was bumped on Saturday night for remarks she’d made earlier about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; criticizing the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for delivering the ‘Steele dossier’ to Democrats and the FBI; general attacks on the fake news and hoax investigations against him.
“His advice to the television network [Fox] to ‘stay strong’ is extraordinary for its marching-orders tone,” Gearan said without evidence, “particularly when Fox employs several hosts who are unapologetic Trump boosters. Other presidents have criticized news coverage they consider unfair but have generally refrained from appearing to dictate to a free press.”