President laments ‘hatred, bigotry and violence from all sides’ but senior Republicans and Democrats demand direct condemnation of far-right extremists
Donald Trump has faced a hail of criticism after failing to explicitly condemn violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, that culminated in a car running into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing at least one person.
The president said he condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides”. But both Republicans and Democrats quickly lined up to call for a specific denunciation of the white nationalists responsible for the “Unite the Right” rally and its deadly outcome.
The clashes started after the far-right extremists planned a rally around a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee that is slated to be removed. A White House spokesperson later amplified the president’s remarks, telling the Guardian: “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter-protesters today.”
Speaking at a previously scheduled event in Bedminster, New Jersey, to discuss healthcare for veterans, Trump said: “I should put out a comment as to what’s going on in Charlottesville.”
After stopping to shake the hands of the assembled veterans, the president said: “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” Trump added that this had been “going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. A long, long time.” Trump added: “What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order.”
Trump urged Americans to “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.”
But the Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio was among those calling for a straightforward condemnation:
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential election, issued a string of tweets, several of them striking implicitly at Trump and the emboldening of extremists it had wrought. “The incitement of hatred that got us here is as real and condemnable as the white supremacists…