The White House said Sunday that President Donald Trump “of course” was including white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis in his condemnation of the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, issuing a statement a day after Trump was roundly criticized for not denouncing those groups more swiftly and directly.
“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred,” read the new statement, which was attributed only to an unnamed White House spokeswoman and not to Trump himself. “Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
Charlottesville, in a declared state of emergency, is the site of violent conflict involving white nationalists — who on Saturday held one of their biggest gatherings in recent history — and counterprotesters demonstrating against the alt-right.
Three people were killed, including a woman believed to be an anti-racism protester struck by a car driven into a crowd of counterprotesters, and two law enforcement officers involved in a helicopter crash while responding to the clashes.
Trump had denounced the conflict broadly Saturday, doing so without pointedly calling out white nationalists.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides,” he had said at an unrelated bill-signing ceremony at his golf course estate in Bedminster, New Jersey.
His statement stood in contrast to other Republican elected officials — as well as his eldest daughter Ivanka and including Vice President Mike Pence — who fiercely disavowed the white nationalist movement.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tweeted: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told CNN’s “State of the Union”: “This isn’t a time for innuendo or to allow room to be read between the lines. This is a time to lay blame.”
Ivanka Trump, a White House adviser, tweeted: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis.”
Pence told reporters in Colombia he believed the president unambiguously condemned bigotry, though Pence went on to call out the “dangerous fringe groups” by name.
“We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK,” he said.
Others on the Sunday TV talk-show circuit criticized Trump.
“He should look in the mirror. He made a choice in his presidential campaign, the folks around with him, to go right to the gutter to play on our worst prejudices,” Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, a Democrat, said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” “and I think you’re seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) indicated on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump may be encouraging right-wing hate groups.
“These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House . . . And I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he’s their friend,” he said.
Anthony Scaramucci, the Manhasset financier ousted last month after only 10 days as White House communications director, told ABC News’ “This Week” of Trump: “I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacist.”
Meanwhile, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told CNN that Trump had urged calm and “didn’t dignify the names of these groups of people.”
Bossert added: “And by the way, we had protesters and counterprotesters that showed up yesterday. ... These were people who showed up intentionally looking for trouble.”
After a heated exchange in which CNN host Jake Tapper pointed out that Bossert had not called out white nationalists, the homeland security adviser said: “I think you’ve belabored it. So, let me say I condemn white supremacists and racists and white Nazi groups and all the other groups that espouse this kind of hatred and exclusion. I can’t be clearer.”
White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he believed Trump was direct enough in his condemnation.
“Well, when he condemned bigotry and hatred on all sides, that includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and I think it’s clear — I know it’s clear in his mind — and it ought to be clear to all Americans: We cannot tolerate obviously that bigotry, that hatred that is rooted in ignorance, ignorance of what American stands for, what America is,” McMaster said.
Trump on Sunday retweeted the U.S. Secret Service’s condolences for the two law enforcement officers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates.
On Saturday, the president tweeted condolences for the officers and the woman who was killed — identified Sunday as Heather Heyer, 32, a paralegal from Greene County, Virginia.
Also Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo launched a petition that urged New Yorkers to sign up, calling on Trump to acknowledge “this hate for what it is: Domestic terrorism willfully perpetrated by white supremacists.”
Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said in an email to his constituents: “The white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who organized this hateful event — and their twisted ideology — have no place in American politics, culture or debate and must be condemned and rejected by all Americans.”
While noting that he believes “there can be no suggestion of moral equivalency when dealing with the evil of Nazism,” King also called for eliminating “the use of violence as a political tool.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), in an email to campaign supporters, said that “anyone associating themselves with the KKK and Nazism is associating themselves with hatred, bigotry, racism, intolerance and a tremendously inhumane past filled with horrible evil.”
The email continued, “We are still learning the facts of what happened yesterday in Charlottesville and there is evidence that the violence came from multiple groups and multiple sides and really no one can be defended who traveled to this beautiful, historic city for the sole purpose of causing physical harm to others. It’s indefensible.”