The New York congressional delegation’s reaction to President Donald Trump’s statements laying blame on “both sides” for Charlottesville violence brought strong disapproval from Democrats and a qualified defense from one Republican.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), in a statement, said Trump was correct to point out that both leftist anti-fascist groups and “KKK and Nazism” supporters showed up in Charlottesville looking for violence.
“These two sides are not equal. They are different. I would add, though, that it is not right to suggest that President Trump is wrong for acknowledging the fact that criminals on both sides showed up for the purpose of being violent. That particular observation is completely true,” he said.
He noted Trump has condemned the Ku Klux Klan and Nazism.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), in an interview, said Trump should have focused on condemning white supremacists.
“The president confused his message, so that was a missed opportunity.” King said that while there is violence on the left, Trump “should have focused on white nationalists, neo-Nazis, right-wing extremists.”
New York’s Democratic lawmakers took a harsher view of Trump’s news conference.
Shortly after the news conference, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “Wow, what a disgrace. There is only one side. No one, especially not the leader of the free world, should ever tolerate violent racists.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted, “When David Duke and white supremacists cheer, you’re doing it very very wrong.”
In another tweet, he wrote, “Great and good American presidents seek to unite not divide. Donald Trump’s remarks clearly show he is not one of them.”
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) wrote on Twitter: “Of course Trump is back to blaming ‘both sides.’ This is what he does. This is who he is.”
She also again called for the GOP-controlled Homeland Security Committee to hold hearings on domestic terrorism.
Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), in a statement, said the counterprotesters could not be compared to neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
“I don’t know why the President would squander any goodwill he received from yesterday’s statements by failing to clearly state who the wrongdoers were in Charlottesville,” he said.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) wrote on Twitter, “There is no mistaking how the President feels. It took him days to call out Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists by name & now he defends them.” He posted a series of tweets in which he said Trump’s speeches “have been full of dogwhistles.”
“Which leads me to a sad and undeniable conclusion: THIS PRESIDENT PEDDLES HATE”.