Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CNN Coverage of the Terror Attacks on New Zealand. Aired 7- 7:30p ET

Aired March 15, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[19:00:01] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: The nightmare will never be over for dozens of families whose loved ones were massacred as they worship. Here's the very latest on the mass shooting at two mosques at Christchurch.

The suspected gunman just appeared in court remaining silent as he faced murder charges. He's been remanded in custody until his next court appearance in April. Authorities say he killed 49 people and wounded dozens more during the Friday praise. Two other suspects remain in custody. But we don't know their alleged role. It was the worst mass killing ever in New Zealand and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says was clearly a terrorist attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: I want to be very clear, though, that our intelligence community and police are focused on extremism of every kind. Given global indicators around far-right extremism, our intelligence community has been stepping up their investigations in this area. The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community, nor the police for extremism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Now, the suspect has been identified as a 28-year-old Australian man. We obtained an amateur video of him just a short time ago. It's a bit hard to make out. But it shows the suspect on the ground, surrounded by police, moments after they pulled him from his car and arrested him.

Well, there are, of course, so many horrific details about these attacks. It's hard to know where to begin. But authorities say the gunman livestreamed his massacre on social media and posted a manifesto viewing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate. CNN's Clarissa Ward has more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bloodied and shaken, these are among the survivors of terror attacks at two mosques that appear to have been planned for years. Forty nine people lay dead as New Zealand's Prime Minister addressed the gunman directly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARDERN: You may have chosen us. But we utterly reject and condemn you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: According to authorities, the suspected terrorist is a 28-year- old white Australian man now in custody and charged with murder. He allegedly entered the Masjid Al-Nur mosque in Christchurch around 1:40 p.m. Friday just as prayers began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hearing the shooting, of the shooting, of the shooting. It went on about six minute or more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: The killer used a body camera to livestream video to Facebook, as he fired and reloaded, those in his sights trying to escape and protect each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First time, I ran. One guy was sitting just beside a wall. And what he did was, he told me, no, no. And I went back again. The next thing, the guy came and shoots this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: Forty one victims are now confirmed dead at the first mosque. At a second mosque, seven more people were gunned down during services. And one other died at the hospital. The dual atrocities have shocked New Zealand, which prides itself on acceptance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're such a small community. We're so kind and loving. So I just don't understand why someone would hurt us like this. And in such a way -- just like an animal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: The gunman is now in custody and charged with murder. Two others have been arrested on suspicion of possessing firearms. None were previously known to authorities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARDERN: These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand, and in fact, have no place in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: In addition to livestreaming his massacre on social media, the accused killer left behind an 87-paged manifesto online. In it, he says he chose Christchurch to show that nowhere in the world is safe, adding many anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-White Supremacist sentiments. He also made clear the attacks were designed well in advance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARDERN: It does appear to have been well planned. Two explosive devices attached to suspects' vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump offered to help New Zealand in any way possible when he spoke -- excuse me, by phone with Prime Minister Ardern. At a White House event, he called the shootings terror attacks, but raised eyebrows when he answered this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really. 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. They're just learning about the person and the people involved. But it's certainly a terrible thing, terrible thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:05:17] CHURCH: All right. We do want to show you this image now, if we can bring this up. It's the first we're able to show you of the suspect in court. It has been blurred. But we know -- we got that image to bring up to show our viewers. Unfortunately, we lost it.

But we will actually return that in just a moment. So let's move on for now. But some would argue that President Trump is causing Islamophobia to rise in the United States. For more on this, let's bring in Lawrence Pintak a veteran journalist and author of America and Islam: Soundbites, Suicide Bombs, and The Road to Donald Trump. He joins me now from Washington State via Skype. Good to see you.

LAWRENCE PINTAK, VETERAN JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Good to see you.

CHURCH: Now, you studied Islamophobia extensively. You wrote about it in your book. Why are we seeing this rise in hateful ideology at this time, what's fueling it in your view, and would you put it at the feet of Donald Trump?

PINTAK: Well, what's fueling it is permission. Basically Islamophobes, hate-filled individuals, were given permission when Donald Trump said Islam hates us. That was a sweeping Islamophobic generalization and that you hear repeated and echoed across the internet every day.

CHURCH: Now, is it fair to say that white supremacist terrorism is usually viewed as less threatening than other forms of terrorism. And if that is the case, why is it, given it's just as deadly and just as hateful, it's just -- it's white faces doing it.

PINTAK: Well, it's not viewed as more -- less threatening, if you're a nonwhite. Certainly...

CHURCH: But I'm talk about how politicians view it.

PINTAK: Right.

CHURCH: How politicians view it, perhaps how the media views it. People don't appear to get as up in arms as when terrorism is perpetrated by other groups.

PINTAK: Absolutely. But the realty is if you talk to law enforcement officials, as I've done for several years in researching the book, they have -- for a long time, in very, very concerned about hard-right terrorism, the rise of white nationalist groups. And the -- what you hear from people at the Homeland Security and the FBI is that it wasn't politically safe to talk about that as -- in terms of Trumping Islamists, so-called Islamist terrorism.

CHURCH: And so, while you have been speaking with us, we've been showing this image, I referenced it a little earlier. We didn't have it, but we got it now. And we're showing it to our viewers.

We see there, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the suspect in court. This is the first image we're able to show of him. Obviously, for obvious reasons, we've blurred out his face there. And for a lot of people, they don't want him to have a platform anyway in, you know, the aftermath of this heinous, heinous crime.

So, let's talk more about this. How concerned are you that this rise in white supremacist ideology poses a global threat, with its hateful anti-Islam ideology, its hateful anti-immigrant ideology, and not only coming from these sorts of groups, but from some of the politicians in the United States, and in other -- in other nations right across the globe?

PINTAK: It's certainly a global threat as of course Christchurch shows us. This is something that -- you've created a tribe through the internet of alt-right Islamophobic individuals who live and breathe conspiracies. To look at the internet, to look at some of these chat rooms, to look at the Facebook and Twitter feeds of American-Muslim leaders is to descend into a lord of the flies scenario.

CHURCH: Lawrence Pintak, thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate it, just under horrifying circumstances.

PINTAK: Indeed.

CHURCH: Thanks.

Well, the 28-year-old Australian suspect charged with murder appeared in a Christchurch district court about an hour ago. And has been remanded in custody. We showed you that image of him blurred. There it is again.

Our journalist, Blis Savidge, is outside the courthouse. She joins me now live. So, Blis, what more are you learning about this suspect and the other two in custody and what transpired in that district court? BLIS SAVIDGE, JOURNALIST: What we know so far, of course, is that a

28-year-old male was charged with murder. And New Zealand police are saying we should expect more charges to come. He finished his brief appearance not too long ago in the court right behind me. This is the Christchurch District Court.

Behind me, you see a crowd of journalists and some members of the public waiting to see if they can catch a glimpse of him leaving the courthouse. We did see an armored vehicle. We're not exactly sure, if that's how he came in or he's going to leave. It's a very large police presence.

And, of course, for all we know, he could have already been whisked away right now. But people still anxiously waiting to see if they can see anything.

As far as what happened in that courtroom, we did have a CNN journalist inside of there who reported that. He was in a prison uniform. And for the most hard had, very neutral expression and was silent during his brief appearance.

[19:10:31] CHURCH: And, Blis, New Zealand is the most unlikely place for a massacre of this magnitude, any massacre like this. And that's exactly why the suspect selected it to perpetrate his heinous crime. How -- how people did dealing with that revelation, and of course, the aftermath of this atrocious mass shooting?

SAVIDGE: I mean, of course, it's extremely overwhelming for everybody here. There's sadness, there's anger. More than anything, they're shocked. But what's surprised me and I think speaks to the shirt of New Zealand is the strength and unity that we've seen from the people here. There are stories we are hearing of people helping other people, helping strangers. Of course, the incredible brave acts that the first responders have performed and just every day people taking injured people who have gunshot wounds, putting them in their own vehicles, and transporting them to the hospital. That is New Zealand. And they're really showing, even in the wake of this tragedy their true colors.

CHURCH: It is an incredible country, with incredible people. Blis Savidge in Christchurch, thank you so much for your report.

An unsigned manifesto filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim comments. That looks like it may have been written by the suspect. But does it really provide any explanations for the attack in New Zealand? We will dive deeper on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Well, the suspect in the Zealand attack seems to have left behind a manifesto filled with hateful white nationalist rhetoric. Senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has read through it. He joins us now live. Drew, what did you find?

[19:14:45] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It's a bizarre document, Rosemary. It does show that this shooter had been planning his attack for years specifically plotting his targets for months -- for months. And in his own words, tries to justify his own evil with this manifesto, which he does admit outlines a terrorist attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: It's titled The Great Replacement, 87 pages, more than 16,000 words, not rambling, but a spell checked dissertation on a hate-filled view on immigrants, immigration, and Muslims. Unsigned, it is the killer's explanation for why he did this.

ARDERN: These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand, and in fact, have no place in the world.

GRIFFIN: The manifesto was posted online by this man under the name Brandon Tarrant. CNN has not yet confirmed this is his real name. But there is no doubt that the28-year-old under arrest is a white supremacist, who believes own white European race is being wiped out by immigration labeling it white genocide.

It is also the universal rallying cry of hate-filled white supremacists across the world. In Charlottesville, Virginia, the neo- Nazi cry was.

(CROWD)

In Warsaw, Poland in 2007, some marchers in an independent state demonstration carried banners that read, White Europe and clean blood.

In 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white teenager named Dylann Roof murdered nine African-Americans in a church. The white supremacist reportedly said, you all are raping our white women, you all are taking over the world, as he gunned down unarmed parishioners.

The rhetoric is old, but new technology has allowed these messages of hate to be spread in real-time across the globe. The New Zealand killer streamed parts of his attack live on Facebook. The video spread to YouTube, news sites before police pleaded for it to stop.

MIKE BUSH, NEW ZEALAND POLICE COMMISIONER: I have seen social media footage, it's very disturbing. It shouldn't be in the public. And we're doing everything we can to remove it.

GRIFFIN: But hours after the attack, copies of the gruesome video still continued to appear, shared by social media users. While police will not discuss motive, the suspect refers to Dylann Roof. And was inspired by white supremacist who killed 77 people in Norway eight years ago. He does try to explain his own breaking point came in 2017.

The French presidential election of what he describes as an anti-white ex-banker and the terror related death of an 11-year-old Swedish girl run down by a Muslim terrorist in a stolen truck in Stockholm, a crime he writes he could no longer ignore.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: And, Rosemary, in those 87 pages, one reference to the U.S. President Donald Trump. He says he's a supporter of Donald Trump as a symbol of renewed white identity, but does not consider him a leader. Rosemary.

CHURCH: Interesting. And, Drew, we know, of course, that two other suspects are in custody. Was there any sense when you read through that manifesto by the main suspect that we saw in court there, that there were others involved?

GRIFFIN: Contrary, he says he acted alone in this manifesto, just pointing out that CNN has not directly linked that manifesto to the actual person charged in this crime yet, although we believe that's the case.

CHURCH: And when you look at this, the most disturbing thing that comes out of this is the hateful -- it's hard to understand how anyone can have that much hate in their heart, the hate towards those of the -- of Islam and those who are immigrants.

So talk to us about what is driving this when you read through that manifesto. How to understand someone can feel so much hate?

GRIFFIN: Well, what strikes me about this, Rosemary, is nothing in this is new. If you follow these white supremacists, this is recycled material, recycled talking points that have been around for decades. It just -- it looks to me like somebody who may have sat in a basement, gone through all this rhetoric online, put it in his own manifesto, perhaps some in own words.

But this is just your run of the mill, white supremacist style of verbiage that's all collected here in this document. It is hateful. It is repeating the mantras we've heard from some right-wing politicians across the world, talking about immigration and anti-Muslim immigration, specifically. And certainly, this stuff about the white race being replaced by this invasion of Muslims, if you will, that is something that is repeated in many, many kind of hate-filled speech all across the world. It just looks like this one suspect put it all together in his one little book, which now we are calling this manifesto.

CHURCH: Yes. And we have heard that over and over again. It comes from these young men, men in their mid- to late-20s. It's a very strange and disturbing trend. Drew Griffin, live for us from CNN Center, thank you so much.

GRIFFIN: Thanks.

[19:20:09] CHURCH: And when we come back, it's a shocking act. We will speak to leaders and citizens from Muslim countries about this attack. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Around the globe, world leaders are expressing their shock and sadness over the attack in New Zealand. From the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, UNITED KINGDOM PRIME MINISTER: Through terrorist attacks that have taken place on U.K. soil, we know only too well, the pain that such horrifying attacks can cause. As New Zealand has stood by us, so we stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and with Muslims in New Zealand, here in the U.K., and around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Australia's Prime Minister called for flags to be flown at half mast, out of respect for those killed in the attack. He also tweeted that Australians stand with all New Zealanders, and that there's no place in either country for intolerance or hatred. Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said this, heartbroken for New Zealand, please pray for the victims and their families.

Islamophobia and right-wing extremist views are being largely blamed for the Christchurch mosque attack. Majority Muslim countries have widely condemned the incident. In Istanbul, Turkey, people gathered to voice their anger and pray for those killed. CNN Arwa Damon is there.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's been so much shock at every level here in the region and widespread condemnation from just about anyone we will talk to. In Turkey, following Friday prayers in Istanbul, at one of the main mosques, people held a commemoration, something of a funeral for those who had perished in that New Zealand attack.

And the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had some pretty pointed comments saying that this was by and large a result of rising Islamophobia. He said that Islamophobia has long been watched and even encouraged in the world. And now after this attack, has crossed the line from individual harassment to resulting in mass murder.

And then, he went onto try to urge nations to come together calling on the entire world and especially western countries. He said to take measures against these types of events, which threatens all of mankind.

And that was a sentiment that we heard from normal people that we heard from normal people that we were talking to. A cab driver was telling me that as heartbroken and horrified as he was over all of this, he also went onto emphasize that people should not allow these kinds of hatred, these kinds of horrific attacks to permit even further divisions.

Because whether it's terrorist organizations or whether it's individuals, whether it's a result of Islamophobia or rising anti- immigration rhetoric or anti-any sort of religion that's out there, there is so much hatred that all of us as an individuals have a duty or responsibility to try to stand against to prevent this kind of violence from taking place once more. Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

CHURCH: And thank you so much for watching CNN Newsroom. We will have more news at the top of the hour. World Sport is coming up next. But first, I'll be back with a quick check of the headlines.