Trump press secretary Sean Spicer opened his press conference on Monday by noting that the president had called to offer his condolences to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following an attack on a Quebec mosque.
Then, Spicer referenced the attack on the mosque as a justification for Trump’s new executive order on immigration, which followed his campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump’s executive order bars all travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days, suspends all refugee resettlement for 120 days, and indefinitely bars refugees from war-torn Syria.
“It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said about the Quebec attack.
But the lone suspect in the attack on the Quebec mosque is Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at the nearby Laval University.
The attack on the mosque occurred on Sunday during evening prayers. A gunman opened fire in the house of worship, ultimately killing six people and wounding eight others. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned it as a terrorist attack on Muslims.
“Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country,” said Trudeau, who has indicated that Canada will welcome the people now shut out of the United States thanks to Trump’s executive order.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
Police initially arrested two suspects in the attack, one of whom appears to be French Canadian and one who is of Moroccan descent, who was then released by the police and is now considered a witness.
— Sûreté du Québec (@sureteduquebec) January 30, 2017
Fox News initially reported on the suspects by focusing solely on the suspect of Moroccan descent — before updating the story and headline to note that only Alexandre Bissonnette is currently a suspect.
Fox’s tweet with the original, inaccurate headline remained up for over a day after official reports focused on Bissonnette, and after Bissonnette was charged.
Meanwhile, speculation continued to circulate on Twitter and the messaging service Gab, a favorite of white nationalists, that a Moroccan Muslim was responsible for the Quebec attack.
Fox News removed the tweet Tuesday evening after a direct request from the Prime Minister’s office.
Bissonnette, who reportedly called police to turn himself in after the shooting, was identified by the leader of a local immigration rights group as an anti-immigrant “troll.” According to a local paper, Bissonnette also had a history of making misogynistic remarks online.
— TVA nouvelles (@tvanouvelles) January 30, 2017
On Facebook, his “likes” include far-right french nationalist Marine Le Pen and Donald J. Trump. A former classmate told another Quebecois publication that Bissonnette was pro-Trump and anti-immigration.
The investigation into the shooting, and the shooter’s motivations, is still ongoing. Spicer also noted in the press conference that Trudeau was “cautious to draw conclusions on the motives of the stage of the investigation,” and that Trump “shared those thoughts.”
Nonetheless, in an official White House press conference, Spicer used the deadly attack on the Canadian mosque as justification for an immigration ban that singles out Muslims as dangerous and bars them from entering the United States.
Aside from noting that the attack was on a mosque, Spicer did not once during his comments refer to it as an attack on Muslims.
This is just the latest example of Trump and his advisers propping up his draconian immigration measures by pointing to attacks that they would not have prevented. In justifying the ban on Friday, Trump repeatedly invoked the 9/11 attacks, despite the fact that none of the hijackers were from the countries he banned. And on Saturday, a senior Trump administration official pointed to the attack on San Bernadino as a reason the ban is necessary.
“Look at the recent, high-profile attacks that have occurred inside the country — an immigration nexus is not at all uncommon,” the official told reporters. “I won’t go through the list of them all now. One obvious example would be Tashfeen Malik and the San Bernadino incident with the K1 visa.”
Tashfeen Malik was from a wealthy family in Pakistan, and later moved to Saudi Arabia. Neither of those countries are on Trump’s list. Her husband, who also committed the attack, was a U.S. citizen.
The post has been updated with further developments.