President Trump called for “love” and unity in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., but offered no rebuke to the white nationalist provocateurs or the driver who intentionally plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said Saturday at his country club in Bedminster, N.J.
Trump had not previously spoken about the clashes in Charlottesville on Saturday morning, which came after a Friday night rally by neo-Nazis marching through the historic University of Virginia campus with torches and Nazi garb.
But the President was moved to address the nation about two hours after the driver of a silver Dodge Charger sped directly into a crowd of marchers, killing one and injuring more than a dozen.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe didn’t mince words later Saturday when he told white nationalists, “There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”
“So please, go home and never come back,” the Democrat continued. “Take your hatred and your bigotry.”
Trump blamed all sides for the hatred that “has been going on for a long time in our country.”
“Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama,” he added. “It has been going on for a long, long time.”
The President appeared surprised by the timing of the violence, given his belief that the economy is thriving and the country “is doing so well in so many ways.”
“So when I watch Charlottesville, to me it’s very, very sad,” Trump said.
He did not seem to draw a distinction between the racist and homophobic neo-Nazis and the counter-protesters.
“We are all Americans first,” he said. “We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country.” He also called upon Americans to “cherish our history,” though some critics said the phrase was a shout-out to the white supremacists, who, after all, were gathering in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
His failure to single out the fascists was condemned.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring tweetedthat the “violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of ‘many sides.’ It is racists and white supremacists.”
Even Republicans condemned the President’s failure to condemn the driver.
“This is nothing short of domestic terrorism & should be named as such,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said in the first of two tweets.
Former KKK leader David Duke attended the rally and mentioned the President as an inspiration.
The demonstration, he said, is “to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”