NEW YORK — It took President Donald Trump two days to explicitly call out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who engaged in violent protests over the weekend that resulted in the death of a 32-year-old Charlottesville woman.
It took him less than 24 hours to undo the damage control that had been foisted upon him by teleprompter-wielding, crisis-managing aides.
Bridling at the term “alt-right,” Trump attempted to redirect blame for the violence at the rally onto the other side.
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” he said at an unplanned news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower, referring to the “alt-right” protesters who gathered to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a park.
Trump also said he has yet to speak to the family of the woman killed, Heather Heyer, but promised that he would be “reaching out” and applauded her mother’s “beautiful statement,” in which she praised Trump.
With no teleprompter to keep him on a message crafted for him by his top aides, like chief of staff John Kelly, Trump reverted to the “many sides” language he ad-libbed on Saturday — remarks that earned him criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, and even pushback from his own top aides.
“You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other,” Trump explained Tuesday, “and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible, and it was a horrible thing to watch.”
He added: “I think there’s blame on both sides.”
What was he thinking? Why can’t this man keep his mouth shut? He simply cannot defend the KKK, the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, and other anti-American groups. These groups have long been on various hate-group lists. He is President of the United States. He cannot defend their ideals. Period.
What he clumsily attempted to do was compare rally behavior. Yes, there were people there who weren’t alt-right who came prepared for a fight. However, there really is no moral equivalence and he failed at establishing any. No “Alt-Left” group weaponized their car and ran down by-standers. No member of an “Alt-left” Group killed an innocent bystander who was just attending a rally.
Trump also blew it by saying some of the protesters were not members of any alt-right movement and were just there to protest the removal of the statues. Stop Trump! Most of the people I know don’t want the statues removed. They wouldn’t have considered going to that rally. They knew who was sponsoring the “gathering” and they didn’t want to associate with that trash nor did they want to get their heads beaten in. Trump simply was wrong–again.
Trump needs to make no mistake. That rally was about hate and groups who operate outside the norms of society. Thuggish behavior doesn’t equal the moral decay that comes from within, no matter how hard Trump tries to white-wash it. He doesn’t even know what “Alt-Left ” is and neither does anyone else.
I know on Friday night I saw a line of people walking 2 or 3 abreast carrying torches. They strode onto the grounds of UVA and walk up to the Rotunda. They harassed who appeared to be the students who encircled the statue of Thomas Jefferson. They chanted racial and ethnic slurs. They snapped out Nazi salutes. Their intent was clearly to frighten and harass. Their message was clear.
These are the people who any President of the United States must unequivocally denounce. He must do so swiftly and without equivocation. Until Trump repudiates these hate groups he simply lacks the moral authority to be the leader of the United States of America.