President Donald Trump’s remarks condemning violence at a white nationalist rally were meant to include the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, the White House said on Sunday, a day after he was criticized across the political spectrum for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists.
US authorities opened an investigation into the deadly violence in Virginia, which put renewed pressure on the Trump administration to take an unequivocal stand against right-wing extremists who occupy a segment of the Republican president’s political base.
A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 people were injured, five critically, on Saturday when a man plowed a car into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist rally in the Southern college town of Charlottesville. Another 15 people were injured in bloody street brawls between white nationalists and counter-demonstrators who fought each other with fists, rocks and pepper spray.
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Two Virginia state police officers died in the crash of their helicopter after assisting in efforts to quell the unrest.
Former US Army enlistee James Alex Fields Jr., 20, a white Ohio man described by a former high school teacher as having been “infatuated” with Nazi ideology as a teenager, was due to be appear in court on murder and other charges stemming from the deadly car crash.
Democrats and Republicans criticized Trump for waiting too long to address the violence, and for failing when he did speak out to explicitly condemn white-supremacist marchers who ignited the melee.
On Sunday, however, the White House added: “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
The statement was emailed to reporters covering Trump at his golf resort in New Jersey and attributed to an unidentified “White House spokesperson.”
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On Saturday, Trump declined to single out any political ideology by name as being involved in Charlottesville. “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he said.
On Sunday TV shows Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, a Democrat, praised the police response as adequate, citing the presence of nearly 1,000 law enforcement personnel at the scene. Signer blamed Trump for the violence, starting with the billionaire businessman’s 2016 run for the White House.
“Look at the campaign he ran, Signer said on CNN’s State of the Nation.” “There are two words that need to be said over and over again – domestic terrorism and white supremacy. That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend.”