Without uttering the words “white nationalism,” President Donald Trump said from Bedminster, N.J. that his administration is “closely following the terrible events” in Charlottesville, VA, and “condemns in the strongest possible terms this egregious display.” He put the blame “on many sides.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” Trump said, then repeating, “On many sides.”
Trump then said, “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”
He called on “swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives,” and said that, “No child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.”
Trump then segued into a familiar check-list of his self-proclaimed accomplishments, including “absolute record employment, we have unemployment the lowest its been in almost 17 years, we have companies pouring into our country.”
“We have so many incredible things happening in our country, so when I watch Charlottesville to me it’s very, very sad.”
“Above all else, we must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are. So we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country, where things like this can happen.”
“We have to respect each other,” Trump said. “Ideally we have to love each other.”
Trump’s comments came as a previously scheduled bill-signing at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, was reconfigured to cover today’s stunning violence in Charlottesville, where white supremacists, white nationalists and alt-right groups clashed with counter-marchers including Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist organizations.
The White House, according to press pool reports, has been in contact today with the Virginia governor’s office and has spoken with Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s chief of staff. Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, has been in contact with local authorities.
Before Trump’s press conference, he tweeted, “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” An hour later, he tweeted “Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”
Trump’s reference to “V.A.” was not to Virginia, but rather to the Veterans Administration: the president’s 3 pm presser had originally been planned as a signing of the Veterans Affairs Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017, which provides funding to extend a program that allows veterans to seek care at private medical facilities instead of just at the V.A.
The tweets drew some criticism for not specifically blaming the white nationalist hate groups.
Just before the president’s Bedminster speech, Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer thanked Trump for condemning hate “at long last,” noting “Our work here is just beginning. Yours is too.”