In an unprecedented move, a long list of Republican lawmakers have come out to condemn President Donald Trump’s response to the deadly protest in Charlottesville last weekend.
The coterie includes House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senators Marco Rubio, Todd Young, John McCain, Jeff Flake, Orrin Hatch, as well as Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Will Hurd, Darrell Issa, Steve Stivers, and Justin Amash, to name a few.
Republican lawmakers seem to be dissatisfied with the way in which President Trump handled the aftermath of the nationwide protests that began, specifically, in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12.
During a press conference held at Trump Tower on Tuesday, the president lashed out at participants in the protest – which saw dozens of people injured and one woman killed after a self-ascribed Nazi supporter rammed into a crowd – saying that he believed both the alt-right and, what Trump uniquely referred to as the “alt-left,” were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville.
“You see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and the baseball bats. What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”
President Trump asserted that “I do think there’s blame on both sides,” and then bafflingly went on to say that he believes there were “very fine people” amongst the white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups who were protesting against the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate leader, General Robert E. Lee.
“Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue. You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
For many members of the conservative right, Trump’s statement drew a false equivalence between white supremacists and liberal counter-protesters, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Tea Party Republican Justin Amash from Michigan quickly responded to Trump’s assertions by tweeting that anti-Semitic and racist chants disqualify protesters as “very fine people.”
"Very fine people" do not participate in rallies with groups chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans and displaying vile symbols of hate.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) August 15, 2017
Soon after, Republican Senators also began issuing statements that berated Trump for his moral ambiguity in response to the violent protests.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio warned Trump of the precariousness of suggesting that anti-white supremacist demonstrators were equally to blame for the Charlottesville clashes.
The organizers of events which inspired & led to #charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons. 1/6— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
They are adherents of an evil ideology which argues certain people are inferior because of race, ethnicity or nation of origin. 2/6— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you,it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them 3/6— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
Mr. President,you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win.We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected 6/6— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both from Arizona, as well as Indiana Senator Todd Young, added their own thoughts to the foray of denouncement by President Trump’s party.
We can't accept excuses for white supremacy & acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn. Period.— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) August 15, 2017
We can’t claim to be the party of Lincoln if we equivocate in condemning white supremacy— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) August 16, 2017
There's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry. The President of the United States should say so— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 16, 2017
This is simple: we must condemn and marginalize white supremacist groups, not encourage and embolden them.— Senator Todd Young (@SenToddYoung) August 15, 2017
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan was careful not to finger Trump directly while tweeting a statement. Ryan did, however, agree with the president’s condemnation of neo-Nazis and white nationalists, specifically.
We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 15, 2017
Mr. Ryan’s colleagues in the House of Representatives followed suit and tweeted were not as shy to point directly at Trump while denouncing his utterances.
Blaming "both sides" for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) August 15, 2017
We should be abundantly clear. White supremacy, Nazism, and hate have no place in our society. We must condemn it on no uncertain terms.— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) August 15, 2017
Evil thoughts turned to evil acts this weekend. No excuses. https://t.co/XNraeYgv9m— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) August 15, 2017
I don't understand what's so hard about this. White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn't be defended.— Steve Stivers (@RepSteveStivers) August 15, 2017
Republican Rep. Will Hurd appeared on CNN when he urged President Trump to “apologize” for his ambiguous tone when he commented on the Charlottesville violence.
“Racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism of any form is unacceptable. The leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that.”
Despite the outcry from Republican on Capitol Hill, the White House issued a memo that was circulated amongst members of Congress. The memo stated that the president was “entirely correct” when he blamed “both sides” for the tragic events in Charlottesville.
“Both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.”
According to the White House, Trump was not tardy in openly condemning white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. Moreover, the memo asserts that there was “no ambiguity” in the president’s statement, and praises Trump for being “a voice for unity and calm.”
The White House also used the memo to urge members of the media to “join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.”
Nevertheless, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly seemed to be less enthusiastic about the president’s opinions on the protests. During the press conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday, Kelly looked demure and reticent while the president spoke.
Officials working with Chief of Staff Kelly said that many in the West Wing were caught off guard when Trump veered off script and “went rogue” during his briefing with the media.
Elsewhere, prominent leaders of the alt-rights, the Ku Klux Klan, and conservative commentators showed support for the Republican president’s handling of the situation.
Among them were former-KKK leader David Duke, Richard B. Spencer, and Ann Coulter, who unanimously praised Trump for the way in which he responded to the Charlottesville violence.
[Featured Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]