White House pushes back against criticism of Trump’s Charlottesville response

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

After coming under fire from all sides of the political spectrum for his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., the White House said on Sunday that President Trump “condemns all forms of violence” — including hate groups.

“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred,” read the statement issued by an unnamed White House spokesperson. “Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

Violence erupted during a rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville on Saturday. A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 other people were injured when a car rammed into a group of counterprotesters. Two Virginia state troopers were also killed when their police helicopter crashed nearby.

Slideshow: Violent clashes erupt at ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va. >>>

A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

Slideshow: Mourning and acts of solidarity for the victims of the Charlottesville attack at a white nationalist rally >>>

Trump responded to the incidents during a previously-scheduled press event at his golf club in New Jersey Saturday afternoon, saying “many sides” were to blame. The president later tweetedcondolences” to the families of the victims. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted Trump for not explicitly condemning the white supremacists involved.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides,” the president said on Saturday. “On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

Related: Charlottesville mayor blames Trump for white supremacist violence

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said Trump’s denunciation of hate groups went without saying.

“When he condemned bigotry and hatred on all sides, that includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and I think it’s clear,” McMaster said. “I know it’s clear in his mind.”

Earlier Sunday, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and White House adviser, issued a two-part statement on Twitter calling out the hate groups by name.

“There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis,” Ivanka Trump tweeted. We must all come together as Americans — and be one country UNITED.”



On CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert bristled at criticism of Trump and dismissed the idea that the president’s reaction to the violence was too vague.

“Are you willing to at least concede that President Trump was not clear enough in specifically condemning white supremacy?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked.

“No,” Bossert replied. “What I would say is that the president not only condemned the violence and stood up at a time and a moment when calm was necessary, and didn’t dignify the names of these groups of people, but rather addressed the fundamental issue.”

Bossert himself refused to call out white supremacists by name until he was pressed by Tapper to do so.

“You, on this show today, have said that you condemn groups and condemn actions and condemn bigotry,” Tapper told Bossert. “But I haven’t heard you say, ‘I condemn white supremacists. I condemn neo-Nazis. I condemn the alt-right.’ I haven’t heard that. And I think a lot of people were upset, a lot of Republican officials, that they didn’t hear it from President Trump. But I don’t want to belabor this point.”

“I think you have belabored it,” Bossert replied. “So, let me say, I condemn white supremacists and racists and white Nazi groups and all the other groups that espouse this kind of hatred and exclusion. I can’t be clearer.”

After Trump’s initial statement on Saturday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted the president for not explicitly condemning the white supremacists involved.

“It’s very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted.

“We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “Everyone in leadership must speak out.”

“Mr. President, we must call evil by its name,” Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., added. “These were white supremacists, and this was domestic terrorism.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden put it bluntly.

“There is only one side,” Biden tweeted.


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