US President Donald Trump, after bipartisan bashing over his stance on the Charlottesville, Virginia violence, delivered a statement Monday, explicitly condemning violent white supremacists.
“Racism is evil,” Trump said from the White House Diplomatic Room. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
“As I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws,” the president said. “We all salute the same great flag. And we are all made by the same almighty God.”
The comments came after Trump was widely criticised for only knocking violence from “many sides” at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a car was driven into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 other people.
Two Virginia state troopers were also killed when their police helicopter crashed nearby. In his initial remarks Saturday, Trump did not explicitly call out neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members or other self-identified white supremacists there.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides,” the president said during a previously scheduled press event at his golf club in New Jersey. “On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”
On Sunday, the White House attempted to clarify Trump’s message, saying that the president “condemns all forms of violence” — including hate groups.
“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred,” read the statement issued by an unnamed White House spokesperson. “Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted Trump for not explicitly condemning the white supremacists involved.
“It’s very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted.
“We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “Everyone in leadership must speak out.”
“Mr. President, we must call evil by its name,” Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., added. “These were white supremacists, and this was domestic terrorism.”
In his statement Monday, Trump did not use the word “terrorism” to describe the car attack in Charlottesville.