Trump Defends Neo-Nazi Protesters

Republicans have come forward condemning bigotry after Trump’s press conference in which he said ‘many sides’ were responsible for the violence at Charlottesville protests. Trump has been apparently reluctant to single out and condemn neo-Nazi and white supremacist protestors, preferring to instead delegate equal blame to counter-demonstrators he called the ‘alt-right’

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” Trump said. “You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs – there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You had people that were very fine people on both sides.”

“You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest – because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: there are two sides to a story.”

Since the conference at Trump Tower, many Republicans have spoken against bigotry and racism at Charlottesville, with some (but not all) going too far as to challenge Trump’s comments on the events. The Arizona Senator John McCain tweeted ‘There is no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry. The President of the United States should say so.”

Jeb Bush, former Republican Presidential candidate who ran against Trump, said: “This is a time for moral clarity, not ambivalence. I urge President Trump to unite the country, not parse the assignment of blame for the events in Charlottesville.

“For the sake of our country, he must leave no room for doubt that racism and hatred will not be tolerated or ignored by his White House.”

Trump’s comments have left many astounded, including some of his aides, who were expecting him to speak mostly about infrastructure before the President went ‘off-script’. Such a display of moral ambiguity from the leader of the most powerful country in the world is worrying at the least, particularly at such a blatantly chaotic and turbulent time. It is inevitable that those white supremacists who were at Charlottesville, and others all over America, will use Trump’s words as moral justification from an incredibly influential figure. The lack of clarity and sensitivity from Trump is hardly a surprise, but the reaction of the Republican Party demonstrates how damning his attitude is to his reputation. It is now undeniable that the President is willing to justify the actions of neo-Nazis and equate them to those of civil rights activists. The consequences of that, for those on both sides of the argument, will be great, and potentially very dangerous.