Killings by white supremacists in the United States more than doubled last year, according to a new report, something it says happened as Donald Trump and Fox News pushed “noxious anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas into the public consciousness”.
The total number of known white supremacist killings in 2018 was 40, up from 17 the year before. The report said at the same time, the total number of hate groups rose to 1,020, up about 7 per cent from 2017.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), an Alabama-based group that tracks extremism across the nation, said some white supremacist leaders such as Richard Spencer, appeared to have lost their previous enthusiasm for the president.
“The organised hate movement may be showing signs of disappointment with Donald Trump, but the president, aided and abetted by Fox News, continues to push his noxious anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas into the public consciousness — fueling fears of a forthcoming white-minority country,” it said.
“A couple of weeks after the midterms, Trump reignited his rant against the migrant caravan, raging on Twitter: “There are a lot of CRIMINALS in the Caravan”. It was just the latest in the president’s long history of denigrating people of colour from other countries.”
The report, which said Mr Trump had also given energy to black nationalist hate groups that espouse antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ views, said that among the white supremacist killings were the October 24 murder of two black people in a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky, by a white man who first attempted to attack a Louisville-area black church.
Shortly afterwards, 11 people were killed in a gun attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Robert Bowers, 46, who is said to have disliked Mr Trump and accused him of not being sufficiently nationalistic, has been charged with 29 federal crime and 36 states crimes.
During a court appearance in November, Mr Bowers pleaded not guilty to those charges, which included murder and hate crimes.
The report claimed that “most Americans are now fully aware that Trump is emboldening white supremacists and helping to grow their ranks”. It pointed to an October poll by the Public Religion Research Institute that showed a majority of respondents believed the president had “encouraged white supremacist groups”.
It added: “But he’s done more than that. He has installed people with extremist views into his administration, and their views are affecting policy.”
In 2017, Mr Trump was widely criticised by many for what they felt was his failure to quickly condemn far right violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one young woman dead. When he first spoke to reporters about the incident, he said there were “very fine people, on both sides”.
After the attack on the Pennsylvania synagogue, the president visited and spoke to survivors, despite the presence of protesters. He also the incident to call for armed guards inside places of worship, echoing a previous claim that teachers should be armed to prevent school shootings.
“If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” he said.
“When people do this, they should get the death penalty. Anybody that does a thing like this to innocent people that are in temple or in church...they should be suffering the ultimate price, they should pay the ultimate price.”
The White House did not immediately respond to inquiries about the SPLC report.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies