By Nicole Darrah
Published March 18, 2019
John Legend said that President Trump needs to speak out against hateful ideology, and "needs to apologize for demonizing Muslims" after 50 people were killed at mosque shootings in New Zealand on Friday.
"He needs to apologize for demonizing Muslims," Legend said. "He needs to apologize for demonizing brown people who have tried to come here and have a better life. He characterizes their desire to come here and work and feed their family as an invasion."
Following the massacre, Trump said the attacks were a "horrible, horrible thing," but later said that illegal immigrants seeking to enter the U.S. are part of an "invasion."
"When people of such influence and such stature are endorsing such a hateful, evil ideology, it emboldens those who will go out and do something really evil and nasty, like what happened in New Zealand," Legend said. "We need the president to speak out against it."
Legend, 40, said Trump has "been wrong using this rhetoric and anyone who's encouraged him or cheered him on in this kind of rhetoric needs to apologize as well."
"They need to make it clear that it's not acceptable for us to use this kind of violent rhetoric that leads to this kind of violent action," the "All of Me" singer told the news outlet.
He added that white nationalism is a "global threat" which has inspiration "coming from America right now, and the American president. Our American president needs to say, 'This is evil. I don't endorse it. I don't embrace it. I'm not winking at it. I'm not equivocating about it. This is evil and I speak out against it.'"
The alleged gunman of the attack called Trump "a symbol of renewed white identity," but Trump downplayed any threat posed by white nationalism.
He said he didn't believe white nationalism was a rising threat around the world, and said: "I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. ... If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet. But it's certainly a terrible thing."
Trump, who as a candidate proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., has drawn criticism as being slow to condemn white supremacy and related violence. After a 2017 clash between white nationalists and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one demonstrator dead, Trump said there were "very fine people on both sides" of the confrontation.
Many experts who track violent extremists have identified white nationalism as a growing threat in the U.S. and abroad. In January, for example, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League said domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S. in 2018, up from 37 in 2017, and said, "White supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings, which is typically the case."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.