The President is, once again, under fire for his response to a crisis. This time, it is the chaos and deaths resulting from clashes between alt-right groups and those who gathered to oppose their rally. His unwillingness to name the groups responsible, or to call the incident an act of terror has angered many, including many of his fellow Republicans.
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The incident occurred today in Charlottesville, Virginia at a rally called “Unite the Right.” After news broke that a car had been driven into a group of counter protestors, killing one (that count now stands at three), Trump addressed reporters from his New Jersey golf resort.
He described the even as an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” It is the “many sides” comment that has gotten him in hot water. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama,” he said. “It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”
“We have so many incredible things happening in our country, so when I watch Charlottesville, to me it is very, very sad,” he said.
We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. -OGH
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 12, 2017
“We should call evil by its name,” tweeted Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
“Very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio.
Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism. https://t.co/PaPNiPPAoW
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 12, 2017
“Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” tweeted Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.
CNN talked to a former speech writer about the moment. “Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, said Trump’s speech was not his ‘best effort,’ and faulted the President for ‘failure to acknowledge the racism, failure to acknowledge the white supremacy, failure to acknowledge the people who are marching around with Nazi flags on American soil.'”
Trump’s comments from his Bedminster resort struck many as vague. He made no mention of the root of the protests in Charlottesville. This shifts the task to his press secretary who now has to explain away his vagueness, and interpret the comments.
“The President was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides,” the White House explained. “There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.”
Many are pointing at Trump’s history with what has been labeled the Alt-Right, and his refusal to distance himself from the group during the campaign. When pressed on the matter, he admitted to the New York Times that he didn’t support the group. “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” he said. “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”
Yet there are others that feel like Trump was out to capture the votes of the Alt-Right. David Duke, no stranger to racist controversy, told The Indianapolis Star on Saturday, “We are determined to take this country back. We’re gonna fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
Duke was just as displeased with the President’s tweets as those who condemned his vagaries. “Take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”