President Donald Trump was criticized on both sides of the political aisle for his reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he said there was violence “on many sides.” Republican Senators Cory Gardner and Marco Rubio both called out the president for not calling the car incident that killed one person as “domestic terrorism.” Texas Senator Ted Cruz also called on the Department of Justice to investigate the car attack as a “grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”
Rubio of Florida added, “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”
“Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” Gardner of Colorado tweeted.
Other Republican Senators later joined Rubio and Gardner by criticizing the president for not using long enough language. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah wrote:
Senator Rob Portman called the car incident an act of domestic terrorism.
Senator John McCain issued this stern statement:
Here’s Cruz’s complete statement from Facebook:
It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed. Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society.
The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.
These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail. America is far better than this. Our Nation was built on fundamental truths, none more central than the proposition “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.
Conservative pundit Bill Kristol, who has been a Trump critic, also said Trump should have denounced bigotry in his speech.
Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, said Americans “have to stop the dressed up racism of alt-right nationalism.”
During his brief remarks from his golf club in New Jersey on Saturday, Trump did not call the incident “domestic terrorism” and never referred to the white supremacists who organized the “Unite the Right” rally.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms, this display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides,” Trump said. “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.”
When asked by NBC News to clarify what Trump meant by “on many sides,” a White House official replied, “The President was condemning hatred, bigortry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.”
Trump also failed to mention racism in his initial reactions on Twitter. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one,” he wrote.
Trump’s “on many sides” began trending on Twitter, as critics called him out for suggesting that there was violence on both sides on Saturday. Some noted that it wasn’t as strong as Trump’s repeated condemnation of “radical Islam.”
The rally was organized by white supremacists and the “alt-right” movement to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia. During the protest, a car drove into a group of counter-protesters, killing one person and leaving dozens injured. CBS News reports that the suspected driver of the grey Dodge Charger is in custody.
Police called off the rally by the statue before it started, when violence broke out. Jason Kessler, who organized the “Unite the Right” rally, told CBS News that their First Amendment rights were violated by the Charlottesville city government and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe because they “didn’t like the outcome” of a court ruling that said they could hold their event.
Other Twitter users noted that the white supremacist community has applauded Trump’s comments. Soledad O’Brien posted a screenshot of their Daily Stormer website, which noted that Trump didn’t “condemn” them. “No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote:
Here are other reactions to the president’s message.