During a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray proclaimed white supremacy was an unwelcome and widespread threat to America, going against what President Donald Trump has previously said on the issue.
“The danger, I think, of white supremacists, violent extremism or another kind of extremism is, of course, significant,” Wray said at a hearing on an FBI budget request the morning of April 4. “We assess that it is a persistent, pervasive threat. We tackle it both through our joint terrorism task forces on the domestic terrorism side as well as through our civil rights program on the civil side through hate crime enforcement.”
When asked what the government is doing concerning hate crimes, Wray said, “We are determined not to tolerate hate-filled violence in our communities, so we’re going to aggressively investigate those cases.”
The House Judiciary Committee has planned a hearing on white nationalism and hate crimes on Tuesday.
“This hearing will examine hate crimes, the impact white nationalist groups have on American communities and the spread of white identity ideology,” the committee said in a statement. “The hearing will also foster ideas about what social media companies can do to stem white nationalist propaganda and hate speech online.”
Wray’s testimony Thursday acknowledged that while there has been an uptick in “the reporting of hate crimes” he said that doesn’t mean more hate crimes have been happening than before. Wray said the FBI’s attempts to encourage the public to report hate crimes may be behind the growth in reports.
President Trump has dismissed the notion that white supremacy has increased or become widespread during his presidency.
Following the March mass shooting at a New Zealand mosque, the president downplayed the threat of white supremacists saying they are “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
However, data from the Justice Department show that activity from hate groups has actually been on the rise since Trump took office in 2017. A report from the department in November 2018 revealed hate crimes in the U.S. spiked by 17 percent in 2017, which was an increase for the third year in a row.
Also lending to Trump’s apparent outlook on bigotry, he famously said there were people to blame on “both sides” for the violence that erupted at a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.