WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump strongly condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence” in street fights and clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, but drew criticism for not denouncing the white supremacists whose rally led to the upheaval.
Trump called for the “swift restoration of law and order” and spread blame among “many sides” for street fights so violent that Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency and canceled the demonstration — before a driver plowed into the dispersing crowd, killing one and injuring more than two dozen.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides,” Trump said in remarks at a bill signing at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agreed that the hate and the division must stop,” Trump said. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama . . . It has no place in America.”
Trump added, “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection — and, really, I say this so strongly — true affection for each other.”
Earlier Saturday, Trump tweeted, “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one.”
Also condemning the violence without assessing blame were first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who both urged the country to unite.
Civil rights leaders, Democrats and some Republicans criticized Trump, saying he did not speak against the racism and bigotry of organizers of the “pro-white” rally to protest the city’s removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) tweeted: “Mr. President — we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a midday tweet as the violence was taking place: “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.”
Mike Huckabee, a Trump backer and father of his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tweeted: “ ‘White supremacy’ crap is worst kind of racism-it’s EVIL and perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.”
In an emailed statement before Trump’s first tweet, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “The march and rally in Charlottesville goes against everything the American flag stands for. President Trump must condemn this in the strongest terms immediately.”