The White House has said Donald Trump condemns neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, after the President received backlash for his response to bloody protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-nazi and all extremist groups,” the White House said. “He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
Mr Trump on Saturday did not directly denounce the actions of the neo-Nazis, skinheads, and members of the KKK who descended on Charlottesville earlier that day to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. The rally of white nationalists was met with counter-protesters, and the gathering quickly turned violent.
A car bearing Ohio license plates slammed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring at least 19. James Fields, 20, who was driving the car, has been reportedly charged with murder. An FBI field office said US attorneys and the bureau have opened a civil rights investigation into the crash, according to the Guardian.
Speaking from a stage at his golf club in New Jersey, President Trump decried “violence on all sides” rather than explicitly taking aim at far-right extremists, some of whom are his supporters.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he said. “On many sides.”
Neo-nazis applauded Mr Trump’s first response to the violent clashes, saying that it was “really, really good” that the President did not condemn them.
The founder of Daily Stormer, an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist site which considers itself to be part of the alt-right movement, hailed the fact that Mr Trump “outright refused to disavow” the gathering of white supremacists.
“People saying he cucked are shills and kikes,” said the site’s editor Andrew Anglin. “He did the opposite of cuck. He refused to even mention anything to do with us. When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room.”
Members of Congress from both political parties criticised Mr Trump’s tepid condemnation of the violence in Virginia, viewing his comments as muted and equivocal.
“Mr President – we must call evil by its name,” said Republican Senator Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Democrats suggested that Mr Trump was unwilling to alienate the racist segment of his voter base.