President Trump Slow to Condemn Hate Groups Following Charlottesville Riots
Update: August 14, 2017
Two days after three people lost their lives (namely paralegal Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police members, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates) when riots broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump finally explicitly condemned white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis.
Trump's remarks came after Ken Frazier, the chief executive officer of Merck & Co., Inc., stepped down from the president's American Manufacturing Council in protest of his, at the time, seeming unwillingness to call out hate groups by name, as reported by Reuters.
The president quickly lashed out against Frazier on Twitter, tweeting "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!"
Observers have contrasted Trump's quick reaction to Frazier's departure with his slow reaction to condemn hate groups.
No 'moral equivalence'
Following a Nazi-era, Nuremberg-style Unite the Right rally aimed at defending "Southern heritage, spurred by an effort by Charlottesville officials to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park," as reported by Daily Progress, yesterday evening, August 11, 2017, riots broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, today, that ended with at least one person dead and several injured after a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters. Additionally, two members of the Virginia State Police lost their lives in a helicopter accident, as reported by Deadline.
"We're looking at some very clearly open, straight-at-you hate crimes that are taking place, right in front of us... If you really dig deep enough on this, this is really some forms of domestic terrorism, and you can't deny it. You can't overlook it, because had this been a Muslim careening into a crowd of people in this country, involved in acts that we have seen vividly, thus far, we would be going off the charts. And so would the president," Cedric Alexander, Rochester, New York's deputy mayor, stated with regard to the incident on CNN.
Many observers noted that President Donald Trump, who is notorious for his quick-reaction tweets to many events, was silent until after both the first lady, Melania, and vice president, Mike Pence, tweeted, what many consider to be, ambiguous responses. Later, Pence explicitly condemned white supremacists.
President Trump refuses to name names
At a speech in Bedminster, New Jersey, later in the day, the president stated, "We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides."
Cornell Brooks, with CNN, observed that Trump "refused" to name names. He held up the president's previous references to black and Latino Americans as "thugs," and that he appeared "unable" to name the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalists behind the original event, specifically, by name. Brooks offered the view that Trump presented each side involved with today's riots as having "moral equivalence."
"That fact of the matter is, the KKK, the Nazis, the so-called alt-right, came to Charlottesville to engage in hate crimes, to engage in hate speech, to victimize others. The protesters and counter-protesters are not on the same moral plane, but, in fact, these white nationalists, these Ku Klux Klan polo-shirt-wearing white nationalists are in a valley of their own moral despair," Brooks continued.
More than just peace, which Cornell Brooks believes is also a goal, the president must call for the prosecution of those involved in hate crimes. The ambiguity of the president's words is seen empowering members of the alt-right.
Vox quoted former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who was on the scene of the riots, "We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back."
Though President Trump has formally disavowed political support from Duke, the lack of conviction of his dismissal of Duke, combined with his ambiguous condemnations, leave open the possibility that white supremacists and other members of the alt-right may believe that the president is playing a game of a nudge and a wink with them, publicly discrediting their views, while secretly supporting them.
These suspicions may be fueled by remarks like, "Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem," by Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, who recently channeled, apparently, those who hold his views with contempt, as reported by Think Progress. Returning to his own voice, Gorka stated "No, it isn’t... Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester."
That President Trump hired Breitbart's Steve Bannon to serve as his chief strategist further fuels these suspicions.
President Trump's full remarks with regard to Charlottesville
"We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, 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. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society, and no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play, or be with their parents, and have a good time."
"I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agreed that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation, and true affection, and I mean this strongly, true affection for each other."
"Our country is doing well in so many ways. We have record, absolute record, employment. We have unemployment the lowest it's been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country. Foxconn, and car companies, and so many others. They're coming back to our country. We're renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country, and great for the American worker. We have so many incredible things happening in our country."
"So when I watch Charlottesville, to me it's very, very sad. I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia. Incredible people, law enforcement, incredible people. And also the National Guard, they've really been working smart, and working hard. They've been doing a terrific job. Federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor."
"He thanked me for that, and we are here to provide whatever other assistance is needed. We are ready, willing, and able. Above all else, we must remember this truth, no matter our color, creed, religion, or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We're proud of our country. We're proud of who we are."
"So, we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it, and we want to see what went wrong in our country where things like this can happen. My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and our citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history, and our future, together. So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other."
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© 2017 Stephen Sinclair