"A great day for David Duke and racists everywhere": Donald Trump's alt right defense is blasted in the media

Media outlets from The Washington Post to the National Review have condemned Trump's defense of alt right marchers

Published August 16, 2017 8:00AM (EDT)

 (AP/Susan Walsh)
(AP/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump's press conference on Tuesday wasn't an ordinary political event. It is not normal for a sitting president to defend individuals who march under Nazi and Confederate flags, or to morally equate an imaginary "alt left" with those people because they dare to fight back against bigotry.

This is something that Trump's media critics have not failed to notice.

"I don't know what to say tonight... I'm just hurt." said Van Jones while speaking with Anderson Cooper on CNN.

The editorial board of The Washington Post was more scathing than Jones:

Tuesday was a great day for David Duke and racists everywhere. The president of the United States all but declared that he has their backs.

When a white supremacist stands accused of running his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring 19, Americans of goodwill mourn and demand justice. When this is done in the context of a rally where swastikas are borne and racist and anti-Semitic epithets hurled, the only morally justifiable reaction is disgust. When the nation’s leader does not understand this, the nation can only weep.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, meanwhile, delved in great detail into why "there is — and there can be — no moral equivalence between Nazis and those who oppose Nazis," and that founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should not be equated with Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

The nationalist-turned-presidential-adviser Stephen K. Bannon used to say that the publishing outfit he led, Breitbart, was a “platform for the alt-right,” a euphemism for white nationalists and related far-right extremists. But now there is a new platform for the alt-right in America: the White House.

It looks more and more like the White Nationalist House.

The editorial board of The New York Times framed Trump's remarks as indicative of another troubling problem. For all of the talk about advisers like Chief of Staff John Kelly reining in the president's worst impulses, their efforts will be for nought because of the president's unshakeable character flaws.

Mr. Trump’s behavior has become distressingly unsurprising. His default position is retaliation; when threatened, he succumbs to bombast. Washington politicians had hoped the recent appointment of John Kelly, a retired Marine general, as his chief of staff would instill some discipline in his chaotic administration. With similar hopes, others are trying to get Mr. Trump to fire his resident provocateur, Stephen Bannon. But the root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top.

CNN's Stephen Collinson penned a piece exploring the various ways in which Trump's press conference could alienate him from Republican leaders, the business community and even much of his own base.

The most unorthodox candidate and president in history has exhibited a near-mystical capacity to evade the price of blunders that would have felled conventional politicians.
If that is ever going to change, the moment may be now.
Of course, there were some conservative media outlets willing to semi-defend the president. Ben Shapiro of the National Review refused to accept the president's defense of the alt right — but he couldn't contain his venom for the left enough to avoid making the same moral conflation as the president.
On the one side, a racist, identity-politics left dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate beneficiaries of privilege and therefore must be excised from political power; on the other side, a reactionary, racist, identity-politics alt-right dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate victims of the social-justice class and therefore must regain political power through race-group solidarity.
It remains to be seen whether the bulk of the conservative movement behaves as Collinson hopes it will or as Shapiro actually has.

Certainly they are being tested.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Alt-left Alt Right Charlottesville Riots Donald Trump Partner Video White Nationalism White Supremacism