"We must call evil by its name": Republicans criticize Trump, Jeff Sessions for ignoring white supremacists in Charlottesville statements

The nation's top leaders condemned the violence on "all sides" -- but ignored the white nationalists who stoked it

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published August 12, 2017 5:14PM (EDT)

Jeff Sessions; Donald Trump (AP/Alex Brandon/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Jeff Sessions; Donald Trump (AP/Alex Brandon/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Donald Trump did not hesitate to compare U.S. intelligence officers to Nazis but after white nationalists waving the Nazi flag erupted in violent clashes throughout downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, the president failed to call out racists and chide white supremacists -- even after a car plowed into a group of anti-racists protesters, killing at least one person.

A spokesperson for the University of Virginia Hospital cited one death and at least 35 injured on Saturday afternoon, the violent aftermath of a what appears to be a deliberate attack. White supremacists gathered near the college campus to protest the removal of a Confederate statute. Self-identified "alt-right" protesters —a key constituency of Trump's base made up mostly of white men— marched through the campus carrying tiki torches Friday night.

"It’s been going on for a long time in our country, not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it’s been going on for a long, long time,” Trump said in a televised statement from New Jersey on Saturday. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides ― on many sides."

Hardly the high mark of rhetoric, Trump went on to boast about the economy -- without once mentioning the reason for the rally or the car accident. “We wanna get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville and we want to study it,” he continued. “We want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen.”

“It has no place in America,” he added. “What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, echoed his hollow sentiments on Twitter:

The nation's top cop, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, also failed to make any mention of racism or white nationalists:

"We stand united behind the President in condemning the violence in Charlottesville and any message of hate and intolerance," Sessions said in a statement. "This violence is totally contrary to American values and can never be tolerated."

By contrast, other Republicans were blunt and forceful in their condemnation of the racist rally:

Well, not Ted Cruz:


By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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