Lawmakers slam Trump for delay in denouncing hate groups by name


Posted on: August 14th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — Following bipartisan criticism of his response to the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president publicly condemned white supremacists and other hate groups by name for the first time since violence broke out.

“Racism is evil,” Trump said on Monday. “Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

“As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America,” Trump added.

Trump condemned the specific hate groups two days after a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville turned deadly. Heather Heyer, 32, died after a man intentionally drove into a crowd of counter-protesters and 35 more people were injured. James Alex Fields Jr., an alleged Nazi sympathizer, has been charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene.

But while Trump addressed the situation in Charlottesville during a briefing on Saturday, calling for “the swift restoration of law,” he failed to mention the hate groups by name, instead condemning “violence on many sides.”

Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, thanked the president for his words of “comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred” after his address on Monday.

A significant number of lawmakers criticized Trump’s delay in condemning those groups.

“It shouldn’t take the President of the United States two days to summon the basic decency to condemn murder and violence by Nazis and white supremacists,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“If the President is sincere about rejecting white supremacists, he should remove all doubt by firing Steve Bannon and the other alt-right white supremacist sympathizers in the White House,” Pelosi added.

Sen. Lindsey Graham kept his response short, tweeting, “Well done Mr. President,” following Trump’s comments on Monday.

Well done Mr. President. https://t.co/wMzzQt2Vm5

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 14, 2017

A spokesperson for Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said the senator “applauds the president for clearly communicating the evilness of racism and clearly calling out the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.”

But Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., criticized Trump’s initial response and delay in condemning the specific groups involved.

It’s easy to tweet that hate has no place in America.

— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) August 14, 2017

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. and the state’s former governor, took on a different stance, telling MSNBC that Trump “sounded presidential” but he “wished he would have said those words on Saturday.”

“But I will give the president the benefit today. He said those words and now, we have to make sure his Department of Justice acts on those words. We fully pursue not only this one individual [James Alex Fields Jr.] … but the DOJ will also go after these hate groups across the country because they’ll be back,” Warner told MSNBC.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said she found it puzzling how Trump “didn’t hesitate to attack” Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier over his resignation but “balks at calling out avowed white supremacists” for what they stand for.

Trump has accused Frazier of focusing on “lower rip-off drug prices” on Monday, just hours after Frazier resigned from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in what he described as a stand “against intolerance and extremism.”

Odd how @POTUS doesn’t hesitate for a second to attack CEO of #Merck, yet balks at calling out avowed white supremacists for what they are.

— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) August 14, 2017

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., criticized the president shortly after his speech on Twitter: “Donald Trump’s decision to support Arpaio *during* the Charlottesville crisis, as he refused to condemn white supremacy, speaks volumes.”

Donald Trump's decision to support Arpaio *during* the Charlottesville crisis, as he refused to condemn white supremacy, speaks volumes. 4/4

— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) August 14, 2017

Beyer is referencing Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt for refusing a state judge’s order to stop targeting people he believed were undocumented immigrants during traffic patrols. The president told Fox News Sunday that he is “seriously considering” a pardon for the sheriff.

Beyer also pointed out that it took two full days of bipartisan criticism and “pleading by aides” as well as senior officials like Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his own daughter, Ivanka, for Trump to “issue this basic condemnation.”

Donald Trump's decision to support Arpaio *during* the Charlottesville crisis, as he refused to condemn white supremacy, speaks volumes. 4/4

— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) August 14, 2017

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, said while he was pleased Trump “had finally identified this hate,” he added that such comments should have come 47 hours ago and that “words only mean so much.” Quigley added that America was “watching and waiting.”

It's never too late to do the right thing. Public denouncement should've come 47 hrs ago, but I’m pleased Trump finally identified this hate

— Mike Quigley (@RepMikeQuigley) August 14, 2017

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said he hoped Trump’s words “would begin to unite what white supremacists and bigotry in VA aimed to divide.”

Racism in all forms is wrong. Let's hope the President's words begin to unite what white supremacists and bigotry in VA aimed to divide.

— Senator Angus King (@SenAngusKing) August 14, 2017

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also responded to the president’s brief remarks, calling it “inexcusable” that Trump waiting so long.

“Denouncing white supremacists, KKK, & neo-Nazis should have been instinctive & instant. Trump’s failure shows lack of moral leadership,” Blumenthal said in his first tweet, adding “delay greatly dilutes the message.”

Denouncing white supremacists, KKK, & neo-Nazis should have been instinctive & instant. Trump's failure shows lack of moral leadership.

— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) August 14, 2017

Waiting 2 days to condemn hate groups and racism is inexcusable. Delay greatly dilutes the message.

— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) August 14, 2017

Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez also criticized Trump’s delay, writing: “History won’t forget that when the streets of Charlottesville echoed with evil, Donald Trump responded with silence.”

History won’t forget that when the streets of Charlottesville echoed with evil, Donald Trump responded with silence.

— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) August 14, 2017

For his part, Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, tweeted: “It shouldn’t take 72 hours for the President to condemn Nazis marching in the street.”

It shouldn't take 72 hours for the President to condemn Nazis marching in the street.

— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) August 14, 2017

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