The revealing thing Trump’s tweets about terrorist attacks have in common

The president only weighs in when it’s relevant to his rhetoric.

Flowers lay near the place of the attack on the Champs Elysees boulevard in Paris, Friday, April 21, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Christophe Ena
Flowers lay near the place of the attack on the Champs Elysees boulevard in Paris, Friday, April 21, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Christophe Ena

In the wake of a shooting in Paris late Thursday, President Trump called the horrific act a “terrorist attack” and said the shooting would have a “big effect on [the French] presidential election.”

Thursday’s shooting left one police officer dead and two others injured. Trump’s initial characterization of the event as a “terrorist attack” during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni came less than one hour before French authorities publicly announced their determination as to the shooter’s motive. Trump again depicted the event as a “terrorist attack” in his Friday tweet.


French authorities have since confirmed Karim Cheurfi was the perpetrator in the Paris shooting. The militant group Islamic State claimed Cheurfi as one of their own.

Since he took office, Trump used his personal Twitter account to condemn four international incidents of violence. Before the shooting in Paris, the other three were incidents in Egypt, London, and a previous incident in Paris.

These tweets are significant because they follow a similar pattern of selective outrage. Trump doesn’t shy away from calling acts of violence “terrorist attacks” when the perpetrators are Muslims, immigrants, refugees, or people who are not white or Christian. At the same time, he stays silent on high-profile crimes against these very same groups.

On Palm Sunday (April 9), twin suicide bombings rocked Coptic Christian churches in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria. The pair of bombings left 29 people dead and 47 injured. Trump tweeted that he was “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt.”

In March, Trump tweeted his condolences for an American killed during a deadly attack near the U.K. Parliament. U.S. citizen Kurt Cochran was among the four people killed, while more than 40 people were injured in an attack perpetrated by a man who converted to Islam in 2003 and had a criminal history.

In February, Trump cautioned the United States to “get smart” after a knife-wielding man tried to attack soldiers in Paris, France at the Louvre Museum. The attacker injured a soldier, but was himself shot and injured.

Since taking office, Trump hasn’t tweeted about any international acts of violence that weren’t perpetrated by Muslims. In February, is administration released a list of so-called “under-reported attacks” — none of them were committed by non-Muslims.


Yet there are incidents on the level of the ones Trump has weighed in on that he has chosen to remain silent about. The president remained silent when a white man shouted “get out of my country” at two Indian immigrants in Olathe, Kansas before opening fire and killing one of them. He also remained silent when a fan of his walked into a mosque in Quebec, Canada and shot and killed six people, injuring eight.

Trump’s tweets of selective outrage about international incidents also sit uneasily with the “America First” promise he made at the beginning of his presidency.

“As your president, I have no higher duty than to protect the lives of the American people,” Trump tweeted.

Since 9/11, foreigners have posed less of a threat to U.S. citizens than right-wing extremists. Islam-inspired attacks accounted for 50 deaths since 9/11, but right-wing extremists caused 254 fatalities. Trump additionally chose to remove white nationalist groups from a federal effort to study extremist radicalization, instead focusing its efforts on groups associated with Islam.