Several prominent Republicans denounced President Trump’s latest comments blaming “both sides” for the violence that erupted between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
“One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi,” former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted. “The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.”
“We must be clear,” House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement on Wednesday morning condemning hate groups. Like Paul, McConnell did not mention Trump by name.
“There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms,” McConnell’s statement read. “We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”
“There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry,” Sen. John McCain tweeted. “The President of the United States should say so.”
Former Presidents George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush issued a rare joint statement saying “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms.”
“As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights,” their statement read. “We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”
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“Saturday’s violence and tragic loss of life was a direct consequence of the hateful rhetoric & action from white supremacists demonstrating,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote.
“Race-based supremacy movements have no place in our melting pot culture,” McCarthy added. “They do not reflect the ideals enshrined in our Constitution that treats and respects every American equally.”
During a heated exchange with reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon, the president defended his initial statement that asserted “many sides” were to blame for the violence on Saturday in Charlottesville, where white nationalists and neo-Nazis clashed with counterprotesters. One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a 20-year-old reported Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove his car through a group of counterprotesters. Trump called the man, James Alex Fields Jr., a “murderer” but declined to characterize the incident as domestic terrorism — which several members of the GOP had urged him to do.
“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. “And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.”
“I think there’s blame on both sides,” the president added. “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.”
Late Tuesday, the White House distributed a sheet of talking points to congressional Republicans about Charlottesville. “The President was entirely correct,” the first bullet point read. “Both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that the organizers of the white supremacist rally deserve all of the blame.
“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame,” Rubio tweeted. “We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued a statement addressing the president directly.
“Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them,” Graham said Wednesday: “Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is a moral equivalency between the white supremacist no-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer.”
Graham added: “Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has becone a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world.”
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“The president of the United States needs to condemn these kinds of hate groups,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday. “The president has to totally condemn this. And this is not about winning an argument. This is about the fact that now these folks are apparently gonna go to other places and they think that they had some sort of a victory. There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-Nazis and anybody else.”
Trump also said that were some “very fine people” in the torch-bearing group protesting the removal of “a very, very important” Confederate statue.
“Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” he said. “Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted, “‘Very fine people’ do not participate in rallies with groups chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans and displaying vile symbols of hate.”
In a statement, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., said that “the president needs to be crystal clear that hatred has no place in our society, but he is currently failing at it.”
“[The President] just doesn’t get it,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., tweeted. “No moral equivalence between manifestations for and against white supremacy. He’s got to stop.
“I don’t understand what’s so hard about this,” Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, wrote on Twitter. “White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn’t be defended.”
Read more from Yahoo News:
- How presidents should speak about racist violence: Lessons from history
- Heather Heyer’s father says he forgives her alleged killer
- Kasich rips Trump’s Charlottesville response: ‘It’s not about winning an argument’
- ‘There are no good neo-Nazis’: McConnell weighs in without mentioning Trump
- After Charlottesville, both Bush presidents denounce ‘hatred in all forms’