A reporter asked Sean Spicer at the White House press conference Wednesday if Donald Trump would denounce the "rash of attacks on LGBT community centers throughout the nation," including the recent vandalization of the Casa Ruby center in Washington, D.C.
“Sure,” Spicer said, adding, “One of the points that we’ve made in previous statements on this is that this is not the way that we as Americans solve our differences. We don’t attack each other. We don’t engage in this kind of behavior."
"I think we have a First Amendment that allows us to express ourselves, and that’s the appropriate way," he added. "But doing it when you’re threatening violence or destruction or vandalism is inappropriate in all of its forms.”
In a follow-up question, the reporter asked Spicer if the attacks were "connected to the withdrawal of the transgender guidance."
"I don’t believe there is any connection between — I think that that would be a stretch, to say the least," Spicer said.
Many activists would disagree with Spicer. In a recent commentary for The Advocate, the Human Rights Campaign's Mary Beth Maxwell outlined how politics and policy can and do encourage violence. Because of this, she said it was no coincidence that many of the recent attacks on LGBT centers coincided with the Trump administration's rollback of guidelines protecting trans students.
"As we seek to combat not just this violence but also what fosters it, we must be honest about the central role political rhetoric and policies play in this culture of hate," Maxwell said in the commentary, which raised red flags about the recent attacks on LGBT centers in D.C., Oklahoma, New Jersey, Florida, Minnesota, and California.
"Words of prejudice breed policies of discrimination and policies of discrimination breed acts of violence. The political rhetoric we too often see — from the dog whistles to explicit racism, transphobia, and xenophobia — engenders a toxic environment that puts many within our communities in the cross hairs."
The HRC has joined with 150 other human rights groups to urge Trump to more forcefully denounce hate-motivated crimes, which he may have had a hand in fostering during and after his presidential campaign. Since the campaign, hate crimes against members of all vulnerable communities have spiked, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Watch Spicer deliver his remarks below.