Trump rips up Monday’s statement that “racism is evil”, targets “alt-left”
Developments on Day 208 of the Trump Administration:
Trump Returns to Blame of “Many Sides” Over Charlottesville
In a stunning reversal, Donald Trump withdraws his criticism of white supremacists over the violence during their weekend rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia.
On Monday, Trump had finally given way to political pressure with the declaration, “Racism is evil”. The scripted statement replaced — albeit half-heartedly and only after self-praise of his supposed economic achievements — his Saturday blame of “many sides”, soon after white supremacists had marched in military uniform with swastikas and Nazi-style salutes and after a car had rammed counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other people.
But yesterday Trump turned a planned presentation on infrastructure into a diatribe trying to pin blame on the “alt-left” and, at times, defending the white supremacists over both their Friday-night, torch-lit march — in which some shouted, “Jews will not replace us” — and their Saturday gathering.
Speaking at Trump Tower in New York, Trump returned to his Saturday line:
I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.
The statement came moments after some US media circulated articles declaring that Chief of Staff John Kelly, appointed earlier this month, was finally imposing discipline on the White House after in-fighting and the turmoil over Trump’s statements and use of Twitter. As Trump spoke, Kelly stood to the side uneasily, glancing about and sometimes looking at the floor.
WATCH: White House chief of staff John Kelly reacts to President Trump's latest remarks on violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. pic.twitter.com/O9gwSCxwp8
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 16, 2017
Photo: Al Drago/New York Times
Trump defended the Charlottesville marchers: “I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Further absolving the white supremacy movement, Trump turned against the “alt-left”, his label for counter-protesters. While saying some marchers were “bad”, he portrayed the cause of the violence as the counter-protesters “swinging clubs…charging at, as you say, at the alt-right”: “[They came] charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”
Trump tried to rebuke the call to remove statues of Confederate-era figures such as General Robert E. Lee — the immediate pretext for the white supremacists’ gathering in Charlottesville — with a claim of equivalence with America’s Founding Fathers:
Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
Trump’s Unstable Tweets
Despite making his Monday statement which supposedly would smooth over the political waters, Trump continued to show signs that he had not changed his position and that he was still consumed with bitterness and anger.
Throughout Monday, he assailed Kenneth Frazier, the head of Merck Pharma who is one of four executives to resign from the administration’s American Manufacturing Council in the past 48 hours. Then Trump began Tuesday by retweeting an image of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN journalist — an uncomfortable echo of Saturday’s car-ramming in Charlottesville and a continuation of his messages presenting violence against the media — and then, bizarrely, retweeting a message which called him a “fascist”.
Both retweets were quickly deleted. However, Trump again circulated the message that he might pardon Joe Arpaio — the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, and a darling of the hard-right over his aggression approach towards immigrants — and lashed out at those who had left the AMC.
Then, face red, he announced he would take questions and answers at his Trump Tower appearance, shredding the repair work of his White House staff.
Some of those advisors — such as Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, whose presentation on infrastructure was overshadowed by Trump’s performance yesterday — are said to be “deeply upset“, although they are not yet considering resignation.
But Trump appeared oblivious to the concern:
Trump, meanwhile, was in a very good mood last night post-press conference. Felt liberated after doing what he waned, per sources
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 16, 2017
GOP Upset But White Supremacy’s Duke Happy
Trump’s comments immediately resurrected the disquiet among leading Republicans that had been provoked by the Saturday statement.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said white supremacy was “repulsive” and chided that “there can be no moral ambiguity”. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, said, “Blaming ‘both sides’ for #Charlottesville?! No.” And Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was unsparing:
Mr. President,you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win.We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected 6/6
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
The US military also responded. The Marine Corps commandant, General Robert B. Neller, tweeted:
No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.
— Robert B. Neller (@GenRobertNeller) August 15, 2017
But the white supremacist leader David Duke was jubilant about the condemnation of “leftist terrorists”: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville.”
Daily Caller & Fox News Remove Articles Promoting Car-Ramming of Protesters
Following the events in Charlottesville, right-wing outlets The Daily Caller and Fox News remove months-old articles promoting the car-ramming of protesters.
In January, The Daily Caller published a post and 90-second video, “Here’s A Reel Of Cars Plowing Through Protesters Trying To Block The Road”. Video editor Mike Raust wrote:
Here’s a compilation of liberal protesters getting pushed out of the way by cars and trucks. Study the technique; it may prove useful in the next four years. None of these clips are new, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still fresh.
While the article is now gone, The Daily Caller’s video is still on YouTube.
Fox News Nation and other outlets repackaged the piece. On Tuesday Noah Kotch, the editor-in-chief of Fox News Digital, said in a statement, “The item was inappropriate and we’ve taken it down. We regret posting it in January.”