Trump’s deafening silence on the Olathe, Kansas murder

One week later, the president still can’t be bothered.

A small memorial for Srinivas Kuchibhotla is displayed outside Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kan., Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
A small memorial for Srinivas Kuchibhotla is displayed outside Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kan., Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Last week, 32-year-old Indian immigrant Srinivas Kuchibhotla was murdered at a bar in Olathe, Kansas. The FBI is investigating the shooting that claimed his life — and which also wounded fellow India native Alok Madasini and Ian Grillot, a white local who tried to intervene — as a potential hate crime. Kuchibhotla’s suspected murderer allegedly shouted “get out of my country” before opening fire; a witness says the shooter targeted the two Indian men because he believed they were Iranians.

In other words, this bears all the hallmarks of racist vigilantism. And it did not occur in a vacuum. Since President Donald Trump was elected on an avowedly Islamophobic platform, the nation has been convulsed by an unceasing wave of hate-based violence, harassment, and intimidation. Now that violence has claimed a life and stunned countless onlookers — both in the United States and in Kuchibhotla’s native India, where the killing made front page news.

And yet, six days after the shooting, Trump still hasn’t said a word about it.

The only word from his administration came from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who last week warned against “jumping to conclusions” regarding the suspected shooter’s motive.

Trump’s silence speaks volumes, and people have taken notice. The Kansas City Star editorial board described it as “disquieting” in an editorial published Monday evening. Earlier that day, 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also urged him to “speak out.”

Trump has yet to take her up on that.

But the president has found time for issues that he evidently considers more important. Such as the race for the Democratic chairmanship. Or technical snafus at Hollywood awards shows. Or complaints about negative coverage of his administration. It’s only in the face of racist violence that Trump’s usual garrulousness fails him.

Until recently, the same applied to anti-Semitic vandalism and bomb threats. One week ago, following a solid month of incidents targeting Jewish community centers and graveyards, Trump eventually issued a desultory condemnation of anti-Semitism. Now he won’t extend even that minimal courtesy to Muslims, people of South Asian descent, or any of the other groups being targeted in the wave of hate correlated with his rise to power.

In fact, after nearly an entire month, Trump still has yet to utter a single word about a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, Quebec. The suspected shooter in that case is believed to be a Trump supporter. While the Canadian Prime Minister has denounced the shooting as a “terrorist attack on Muslims,” Trump has preferred to focus on nonexistent Islamic extremist terror in far-flung places like Sweden.

Maybe that’s because acknowledging actual racist violence would distract from his administration’s focus on a wholly illusory epidemic of crimes being committed by undocumented immigrants.

Despite a lack of evidence showing that the undocumented commit violent crimes at anything like a disproportionate rate, Trump has directed the Department of Homeland Security to specifically target “criminal aliens.” His guests at Tuesday night’s address to Congress will include relatives of three people killed by undocumented immigrants, according to a White House press release.

Trump’s top strategist remains Steve Bannon, former proprietor of the white nationalist website Breitbart, which had a special “Black Crime” vertical during his tenure.

The above article originally said that Trump’s address to Congress was set for Wednesday, not Tuesday.