Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Donald Trump Is Signaling to White Supremacists That He'll Ignore Their Violence

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused President Donald Trump of signaling to white supremacists that he would "look the other way" as they commit acts of violence.

After the New Zealand mosque shootings by an self-described white supremacist, a reporter asked Trump if he saw white nationalism as a rising threat around the world.

"I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems," Trump replied, before saying he did not at that time know much about the details of the New Zealand attack but that it was "certainly a terrible thing."

Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, tweeted that Trump's comments were a "deliberate" message to white supremacists.

"White supremacists committed the largest # of extremist killings in 2017," she wrote, quote tweeting the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization whose focus is civil rights and public interest litigation.

"What the President is saying here: 'if you engage in violent acts of white supremacy, I will look the other way.' Understand that this is deliberate. This is why we can't afford to sit on the sidelines."

Last Friday, Brenton Tarrant, 28, is alleged to have entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and shot dead 50 people, injuring dozens more, in a white supremacist terror attack against Muslims.

Tarrant, who wrote and published a hate-filled manifesto online, streamed the massacre live on social media. The Australian citizen is now in custody awaiting trial in New Zealand, whose government is preparing to introduce much stricter gun controls in response to the deadly terror attack.

Some of Trump's critics accuse him of stoking white supremacists with his rhetoric on immigration and terrorism, and by failing to condemn unequivocally the racist speech of those who support him.

Tarrant's manifesto described immigration in white-majority countries as an invasion, language that echoes Trump's own comments about the undocumented migrants entering America across the southern border.

Trump has also found support among white supremacist groups in the U.S. who believe he shares at least in part their vision of what the country should look like.

Trump's supporters and allies, however, say any attempt to link the president to white supremacy is a smear, and that he has spoken out against racism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said the U.S. saw a near 50 percent rise in white nationalist groups between 2017 and 2018 alone.

In October, a white supremacist entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh and shot dead 11 people, injuring several more, in an anti-Semitic hate attack. Robert Bowers, 46, was arrested in the attack and awaits trial.