In the immediate aftermath of the violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia that left Heather Hyer dead and at least 19 others injured, Donald Trump failed to take a clear and direct stance against the KKK, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and the doctrine of white supremacy that fuels those movements.
Only after 48 hours of extreme public pressure, including four CEOS dropping out of his manufacturing council, Trump made a brief statement condemning those groups specifically. In a press conference from Trump Tower in New York City today, Trump undermined his previous statements by placing blame on "both sides" and conjuring up an "alt-left" comprised of anti-fascist protestors.
"You had a group on one side who was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now," he said. "You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent." He added, "Not all of those people were white supremacists, not all of those people were neo-Nazis."
He then fervently defended people who were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, equating the Confederate General with George Washington and asking reporters rhetorically, "Is it George Washington next, is it Thomas Jefferson?"
He later said, "I'm not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I'm saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you've just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group, so you can say what you want but that's the way it is."
You can read the full transcript of the presser here, or watch the video below:
Twitter is currently being flooded with responses to this conference from people on all sides. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan reiterated his stance against white supremacy shortly after Trump's remarks today:
We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 15, 2017
David Duke, meanwhile, had words of praise for the president:
Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa https://t.co/tTESdV4LP0
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 15, 2017
One White House official has already told the press that the conference, which was supposed to be about American infrastructure, "wasn't our plan." Surprisingly, a conservative Fox News pundit may have summed up our feelings in the most succinct way possible:
Fox News host @KatTimpf absolutely goes off on Trump's “disgusting" presser: “I'm wondering if it's actually real life what I just watched." pic.twitter.com/BS0xFwxk3o
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) August 15, 2017
And in case anyone needed a reminder:
YOU CAN'T BE BOTH A NAZI AND A PROUD AMERICAN.
WE LITERALLY HAD A WAR ABOUT THIS.
THE WHOLE WORLD WAS INVOLVED.
— DPO (@DaveOshry) May 27, 2017
PAPER put together a list of things we can all do to stay engaged with activism during this time, which you can read here.
Image via Getty