weather icon Clear

Trump denounces ‘repugnant’ white supremacists, hate groups

Updated August 14, 2017 - 8:52 pm

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday to renounce racism as “evil” and recognized a civil rights investigation into the “horrific attack” in Charlottesville, Virginia, that “killed one innocent American and wounded 20 others.”

Trump’s comments came after three days of Democrats and Republicans alike calling on him to renounce white supremacist groups by name for their role in the violent confrontation in Charlottesville that left a counterprotester dead Saturday.

Trump on Monday did just that. He first referred to remarks he made Saturday that condemned violence and racism, then specifically denounced “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Originally, the White House had scheduled Trump’s return from his Bedminster, New Jersey, residence for a presidential signing of an order to study China’s trade practices. But even before Marine One touched down on the South Lawn, staff announced that Trump would meet first with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Chief Christopher Wray to discuss the federal probe.


Trump did not respond to shouted questions as he entered the White House, but already the controversy had further isolated the president. Monday morning, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier announced on Twitter his decision to resign from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in protest.

“As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” wrote Frazier, who is African-American.

Trump’s response was to tweet back, “Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Later Monday, Kevin Plank, CEO of athletic clothing maker Under Armour, and Brian Krzanich, CEO of computer chip maker Intel Corp., said they, too, would resign from the council.

Car plows into crowd

The story erupted Saturday after a Dodge Challenger plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters and killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old local paralegal who came to demonstrate against a white nationalists’ rally against efforts to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.

Police have charged the alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, with second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of the crash. Photos on social media showed Fields standing with Vanguard America, one of the rally’s white nationalist sponsors.

Two state police officers — H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, 40 — also died when their helicopter crashed.

The controversy involving Trump began Saturday at the signing ceremony for a bill providing funding for veterans seeking medical care outside the Veterans Administration. Trump clearly wanted to keep the focus on the bill, but he also had to address the violence in Charlottesville.

Trump called on Americans to come together “with love for our nation and true affection.” He also said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it’s been going on for a long, long time.”

Cable TV pundits promptly pounced on the phrase “on many sides” to fault Trump for lumping counterprotesters in with white nationalists. The Wall Street Journal editorialized, “As is often with Mr. Trump, his original statement missed an opportunity to speak like a unifying political leader.”

Some critics – including GOP senators — assailed Trump for not calling out white nationalist groups like Vanguard America or naming leaders like former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke who attended the rally.

“Mr. President — we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” tweeted Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.

2016 criticism of Obama

On social media, others pointed to Trump’s 2016 criticism of President Barack Obama’s failure to name “radical Islamic terrorism” and called on Trump to identify the culprit of domestic terrorism. Sessions used the term when he announced the federal investigation.

The weekend offered up a drama that was bound to end one way — with a nod to political necessity when valiant attempts at spin had failed.

In Columbia over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence enunciated the names suggested by Trump critics when he said, “We have no tolerance for hate and violence, from white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or the KKK,” Pence said. “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

On Sunday, the White House released a statement from an unnamed spokesperson: “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

Rather than mollify critics, the anonymous statement served to highlight the president’s reluctance to correct what his administration clearly saw as a glaring omission.

In his Monday remarks, Trump emphasized his personal repugnance at the violence, but his words came too late for Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“The president’s statement is two days late and a dollar short,” she said in a statement. “It should not take two days and a national tragedy for the president to take action and disavow white supremacists.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Appeals court asked to halt discharge of Airmen with HIV

The Department of Justice has argued that the military allows service members who contract HIV to continue to serve if they can perform their duties.

Divided Fed reduces rates but may not cut again this year

The divisions on the policy committee underscored the challenges for Chairman Jerome Powell in guiding the Fed at a time of high economic uncertainty.

Pence urges Congress to approve trade deal

Vice President Mike Pence used a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday to argue for Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.