President Donald Trump has gained notoriety for his swift reactions to tragic attacks around the world, often jumping to conclusions and leveling blame on Twitter before waiting for more information or confirmation. But following the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, Nevada late Sunday night, the president sounded a very different note online.
“My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting,” Trump wrote. “God bless you!”
More than 58 people have died and over 500 people are injured as of early Monday morning after a gunman opened fire on the 32nd floor of the Mandlay Bay Hotel and Casino. Police have said the suspect, Stephen Paddock, 64, is dead, and that Paddock is a local man not familiar to either local law enforcement or to federal authorities. Current reports indicate that he was white U.S. citizen and owned a sizable collection of fire arms.
Information about the tragedy is still unfolding, with many details still unknown. Trump, thus far, has said nothing else about the attack apart from his tweet offering condolences and sympathies — out of character for the president, who has taken a particular interest in perpetrators of violent extremist attacks.
While the reason for the shift is unclear, many on Monday morning pointed to the attacker’s race. Trump has been far more vocal around incidents he believed were perpetrated by Muslims of color. In 2015, Trump responded swiftly to attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernadino, California, pointing to the faith of the perpetrators as a rationale for the violence. This year, in August, after a van hit pedestrians in Barcelona, Spain, and killed 14 people, the president initially took to Twitter to offer his condolences and support. A short time later, he tweeted again — this time reviving an Islamophobic myth about General John Joseph Pershing, claiming that Pershing killed Muslims with bullets soaked in pig’s blood in the Philippines.
“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught,” Trump wrote. “There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”
Trump’s tweet came before the identity or motive of the driver was known. But his assumption about the attack’s faith mirrors the president’s reactions to other attacks. After a series of attacks occurred in Germany and Turkey last December, Trump swiftly blamed “Islamic terrorists” for the violence without any confirmation.
“Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday,” Trump said at the time. “ISIS and other Islamic terrorists continuously slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.”
In September, after an explosion hit the London underground, Trump quickly blamed the incident on a “loser terrorist” before taking the opportunity to tout his travel ban, which at the time targeted refugees and citizens from six Muslim-majority nations.
“Another attack in London by a loser terrorist,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”
“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” he added.
The president has also been quick to assume acts of violence more generally are related to militancy and extremism. After a gunman opened fire on a casino in the Philippines in June, Trump quickly labeled the event a “terrorist attack” before Philippine officials had even collected more information. (The attack was later confirmed to be unrelated to extremism.)
“I would like to begin by addressing the terrorist attack in Manila,” Trump said. “It is really very sad as to what’s going on throughout the world with terror. Our thoughts and our prayers are with all of those affected.”
But jumping to conclusions isn’t Trump’s only knee-jerk reaction to tragedy — there are also the attacks he fails to acknowledge. Last February, Trump failed to offer comment after six men were killed in a mosque in Quebec City, Canada. In May, the president took several days to respond after a white supremacist targeting two young women on a train in Portland, Oregon killed two men who attempted to intervene. He similarly has said little about a spike in hate crimes targeting South Asians in the United States, many of whom are read as Muslim regardless of their faith. After a Minnesota mosque was bombed in August, Trump also remained silent, instead firing off a number of tweets about other topics.
Miqdaad Versi, who serves as assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, tweeted Monday morning noting the contrast in Trump’s approach to different attacks. Versi highlighted the president’s reactions in three scenarios — when the perpetrator is Muslim and victims are Western; when the perpetrator is white or Muslim and the victims are exclusively Muslim; the Las Vegas shooting, with a white attacker and a diverse range of victims.
While non-exhaustive, Versi’s list makes note of Trump’s active commentary on attacks falling in the first category, as well as his silence when Muslims die regardless of who is targeting them. It also notes the attacks on which Trump has been the most notably quiet — those involving the mass-murder of Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, like Iraq and Syria.
This piece has been updated to reflect the number of people killed and injured and to clarify the nature of Paddock’s record with law enforcement.