A former Republican congressman says current members who have chosen to stay silent in the wake of President Trump’s failure to clearly and unequivocally condemn white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last week are silently endorsing a racist view.
“I know a lot of those members of Congress, and they don’t think like that,” former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “They don’t think the way the white supremacists or the KKK think. However, if they are silent, they wear the cap. Intentionally or unintentionally, they wear the cap, saying, ‘We agree with that.’”
Watts added, “We all have obligations as leaders to not put salt in the wound, to bring a decency and a respect to the table to say, ‘Look, we’re going to call evil what it is. We’re going to stare evil down.’”
WATCH: J.C. Watts: When leaders are silent, "intentionally or unintentionally" they are agreeing with KKK pic.twitter.com/ItfJ8Q3W69
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) August 20, 2017
Last week, a defiant Trump defended his initial statement blaming “many sides” for the weekend violence in Charlottesville, where white nationalists and neo-Nazis clashed with counterprotesters during a rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a 20-year-old reported Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove his car through a group of counterprotesters.
“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.”
Several prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., quickly denounced Trump’s comments.
“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,” Ryan tweeted. “White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”
“There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry,” McCain wrote on Twitter. “The President of the United States should say so.”
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) August 18, 2017
But others, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, were slow to do so.
“There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms,” McConnell said in a statement that did not mention Trump by name. “We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”
On “Meet the Press,” Watts criticized the reluctance of some members of the party to confront Trump.
“Over the last seven months, there’s been ample opportunity to disagree with the president on many issues,” Watts said. “This is not a time for us to be afraid of being tweeted. You know, this is not a time for us to suppress our convictions.”
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