Chelsea Clinton was confronted by a group of college students who claimed at a vigil on Friday that the former first daughter was partly responsible for the New Zealand mosque shootings, claiming she had previously “stoked” hatred against Muslims.
According to the Washington Post, Clinton, who is pregnant with her third child, attended a vigil in New York City for the victims of the Christchurch mass shooting, which left at least 49 people dead and 20 injured at two mosques on Friday. Clinton, who co-founded the Of Many Institute, an multifaith organization at NYU, had been invited to attend the vigil.
“This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world,” one student can be heard telling Clinton, 39, in a video of the confrontation, which was initially posted by fellow student Rose Asaf, who has since deleted her Twitter account.
“I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deep down inside. Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there,” the student added.
Maintaining her composure throughout the video, Clinton responded by saying, “I’m so sorry that you feel that way.”
“Certainly, it was never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity,” she added.
Before the end of the clip, another student, who was not visible, could be heard asking Clinton, “What does ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ mean?”
Prior to attending the vigil, Clinton spoke out against the deadly attack.
“Heartbroken & horrified by the white nationalist terrorist attack during Jummah on the mosques and Muslim community in Christchurch,” she wrote on Twitter. “Keeping all affected by this tragedy in my heart and prayers. We need a global response to the global threat of violent white nationalism.”
Heartbroken & horrified by the white nationalist terrorist attack during Jummah on the mosques and Muslim community in Christchurch. Keeping all affected by this tragedy in my heart and prayers. We need a global response to the global threat of violent white nationalism.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) March 15, 2019
The students’ comments appear to be in reference to Clinton’s earlier condemnation of Minnesota State Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was recently accused of making anti-Semitic comments enforcing hateful cultural stereotypes.
In February, 37-year-old Omar — who is one of the first Muslim women to ever be elected to Congress — issued an apology after sharing tweets that suggested U.S. relations with Israel centered around money, NPR reported.
Clinton was one of many who spoke out against Omar, writing on Twitter at the time, “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
According to NPR, following the backlash over Omar’s comments, the House went on to pass a resolution condemning “anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry.”
In a series of tweets, a Twitter user who has identified herself as the student in the video who confronted Clinton defended her actions and clarified what she meant by her comments.
“I didn’t corner Chelsea Clinton, i didn’t approach her with anyone else, i didn’t ask people to record me. the confrontation wasn’t planned, though i was going to disrupt her if she spoke and say the same things that i said to her face,” she wrote.
“I can’t believe this has to be said, but i didn’t tell chelsea clinton she was the one who put a gun to muslims’ heads. I said, & continue to say, that by jumping on the right-wing bandwagon & vilifying ihan omar, she fed into the EXACT discourse we were at the vigil to protest,” she continued in a separate tweet, before adding that a “number of people” thanked her for addressing Clinton.
“All of this stems from the anger and sadness i felt sitting in a space that was supposed to center me and my fellow muslims in mourning and instead became a space in which non-muslims preached abt love while turning around and supporting violent campaigns against muslims globally,” she continued.
The student’s sentiments were shared by many online, with another Twitter user writing that the student was “in pain.”
“She was clearly emotional given that she (like so many other Muslims) is grieving. She merely pointed out how Chelsea Clinton has contributed to Islamophobia, something that is now so normal people don’t even see it,” the Twitter user wrote, adding that they hoped to see Clinton step up for the student and call for trolls to stop attacking her online.
After the exchange went viral on social media, numerous Twitter users and conservatives came to Clinton’s defense, including Donald Trump Jr. and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“It’s sickening to see people blame @ChelseaClinton for the NZ attacks because she spoke out against anti-Semitism. We should all be condemning anti-Semitism & all forms of hate,” wrote President Donald Trump’s son. “Chelsea should be praised for speaking up. Anyone who doesn’t understand this is part of the problem.”
Added Huckabee, “Blaming Chelsea Clinton for NZ massacre is as dumb as blaming @realDonaldTrump for it, or blaming Bernie Sanders for assassination attempt of @SteveScalise It’s the shooter’s fault. Period. No one ‘MADE’ him do it.”
Actress Debra Messing also pointed out that supporting Clinton didn’t mean she couldn’t also staunchly condemn Islamophobia.
“I thought the vigil was to mourn the terrorists attack against the Muslim community in New Zealand which is an attack on all Muslims globally. As a Jew, I can support Chelsea Clinton’s asking the congresswoman to please not use anti Semitic tropes,” she wrote. “And also mourn the loss of the Muslim worshippers in New Zealand, reach out in love and support, and vehemently condemn the Islamaphobia [sic] that fueled the attack. They are not mutually exclusive.”
And also mourn the loss of the Muslim worshippers in New Zealand, reach out in love and support, and vehemently condemn the Islamaphobia that fueled the attack. They are not mutually exclusive.
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) March 16, 2019
Numerous social media users also praised Clinton for remaining calm and not resorting to unkind or hearted words during the confrontation, including Philippe Reines, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton.
“11 years ago I crisscrossed the country with @ChelseaClinton campaigning for her mom. She never once lost her cool no matter how hard someone tried. She killed them with kindness. It was a sight to see,” he wrote. “What I’d give to have been there tonight.”
11 years ago I crisscrossed the country with @ChelseaClinton campaigning for her mom. She never once lost her cool no matter how hard someone tried. She killed them with kindness. It was a sight to see.
What I’d give to have been there tonight. https://t.co/1K7sQwVvZO
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) March 16, 2019
However, several social media users went on to accuse both liberals and conservatives of making the New Zealand tragedy about Clinton instead of the Muslims who were killed.
“In an attempt to steer this conversation around @ChelseaClinton, in the wake of an attack that killed 49 Muslims, in a useful direction, let’s talk a bit about anti-muslim racism and liberal complicity in it,” wrote one user.
Another added, “Shout out the liberals and centrists who, joining right wingers, have helped make the story about the massacre in NZ about Chelsea Clinton here in the US and a college student who was mean to her. You guys are the real ones.”
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According to the New York Times, shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with one count of murder in connection with the massacre. Police said he would face additional charges.
The Times also reported that another man, identified as Daniel John Burrough, 18, has been charged with “intent to excite hostility or ill-will,” although his exact role in the attack remains unclear.
According to the Washington Post, a third suspect has yet to be identified.
A fourth person was initially detained, but has since been released after authorities determined he was just a bystander, CNN reported.
Tarrant — who is scheduled to appear in court on April 5 — and the two other suspects remain in custody, according to CNN.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern referred to the incident as “an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence” and considered it to be “New Zealand’s darkest day.”
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said Friday. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”
Ardern said New Zealand was targeted because it was a nation that celebrates multiculturalism.
“We were chosen because we represent diversity, kindness compassion, a home for those who share our values, a refuge for those who need it and those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack,” she said.