Trump's Reaction To Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally Criticized By Some Republicans

Aug 13, 2017
Originally published on August 13, 2017 8:09 pm
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There has been condemnation from many politicians regarding the events in Charlottesville. Republican Senator Marco Rubio called it a terror attack by white supremacists. Senator Ted Cruz released a statement saying 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. President Trump, though, a man not given to measuring his words, gave these remarks from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. yesterday.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mr. Trump did not single out the white supremacists who started the protests. NPR's Geoff Bennett covers the White House, and he joins us now. Good morning.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Geoff, today there's just been a statement from the White House after the president got a lot of criticism for his original remarks.

BENNETT: It says - and I'm reading now. It says, quote, "the president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all form of violence, bigotry and hatred. And, of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Am I right that this is coming from an unnamed spokesman at the White House?

BENNETT: That's right. This is not attributed to the president himself - the White House has scheduled a press conference, a previously scheduled press conference, for tomorrow. We'll see if they carry through with that. And if they do, you can imagine the president will be asked to say this on his own because it's not just the Republicans you mentioned. It's other Senate Republicans in leadership and, of course, a number of Democrats who say that the president's response so far has been tepid and entirely insufficient. And, you know, the president's apparent refusal to take these racist groups head-on is really raising questions because, as you say, he's not typically one who reserves his opinion. And we've seen it in just this past week. He used his Twitter account to slam, you know, media outlets he doesn't like and even the top Republican in the Senate, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why hasn't the president explicitly condemned the actions of white supremacists, do you think?

BENNETT: Well, I think because whether he likes it or not, white supremacist and alt-right groups are part of the president's base of support. And the president's critics say he's reluctant or entirely unwilling to alienate that segment of his coalition. And you'll remember, during the presidential election, this came up in that he initially did not disavow support from white supremacists and former KKK leader David Duke. He did so following some public pressure. And, you know, Duke marched yesterday. David Duke was there at the protests yesterday.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Indeed he was.

BENNETT: And he tied the protests directly to President Trump - said the protests were inspired by him.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Just briefly, there was a lot of tough talk this week, though. Earlier this week, the president let loose on North Korea. But members of his administration were more measured. What are they saying about what seem to be mixed messages?

BENNETT: Well, the president himself says emphatically there are no mixed messages coming from his administration on North Korea. And he said - remember - that the threat of raining fire and fury down on North Korea maybe wasn't strong enough. So the president believes that this brand of tough talk is necessary since, as he sees it, all of the many efforts by the last three our four presidential administrations have all been ineffective.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR White House correspondent Geoff Bennett. Thank you.

BENNETT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.