Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says she made her thoughts on President Trump’s widely criticized response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., known to him directly.
“I had a personal conversation with the president about Charlottesville, and I will leave it at that,” Haley said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday. “But I will tell you that there is no room for hate in this country. I know the pain that hate can cause, and we need to isolate haters and we need to make sure that they know there is no place for them, because our country is founded on so much more than that. And I think that they’re a minimal crowd that’s very loud that we have to stomp out every chance we get.”
Trump first asserted that “many sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, where white nationalists and neo-Nazis clashed with counterprotesters during a rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, was killed and others were injured when a man drove his car into a crowd of people opposing the rally. Former high school teachers have said that James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was fascinated by Nazi Germany and “had a fondness for Adolf Hitler.”
Under pressure from Republicans and several advisers, the president made a second statement condemning the hate groups by name at the White House early last week. But a day later, a defiant Trump defended his initial statement blaming both neo-Nazis and counterprotesters for the violence.
“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” Trump told reporters at Trump Tower. “And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.”
“I think there’s blame on both sides,” the president continued. “If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.”
Several prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., quickly denounced Trump’s comments.
“We must be clear,” Ryan tweeted, without mentioning the president by name. “White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”
We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 15, 2017
At a CNN town hall on Monday night, Ryan said Trump “messed up.”
“It sounded like a moral equivocation, or at the very least moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity,” Ryan said.
The House speaker said he spoke to Trump about “the need for moral clarity” before the president’s second statement on the violence.
“He agreed with that,” Ryan said. “And he did that.”
But Trump’s comments at Trump Tower “were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing,” Ryan said. “I think he needed to do better.”
However, Ryan also said Monday he would not support a resolution to censure the president.
“If we descend this issue into some partisan hack-fest, into some bickering against each other and demean it down into some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?” Ryan said, adding, “It should not be about the president. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This shouldn’t be about some voting Congress or some partisan issue. This is so much more important than that.”
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