WASHINGTON ― Several leading members of Trump’s Republican Party and ally Britain sharply rebuked the president on Wednesday after he insisted that white nationalists and protesters opposed to them were both to blame for deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, a more vehement reprisal of what had been widely seen as his inadequate initial response to Saturday’s bloodshed around a white nationalist rally, reignited a storm of criticism and strained ties with his own party.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, issued a statement that did not mention Trump by name but said “messages of hate and bigotry” from white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups should not be welcome anywhere in the United States.
“We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head,” McConnell said.
Trump last week lambasted McConnell for the Senate’s failure to pass healthcare legislation backed by the president, and did not dismiss the idea of McConnell stepping down.
In his comments at a heated news conference in New York on Tuesday, Trump said “there is blame on both sides” of the violence in Charlottesville, and that there were “very fine people” on both sides.
Ohio Governor John Kasich said there was no moral equivalency between the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and anybody else.
“This is terrible. The president of the United States needs to condemn these kind of hate groups,” Kasich said on NBC’s “Today” show. Failure to do so gave such organizations a sense of victory and license to hold more events elsewhere, said Kasich, one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election.
A 20-year-old Ohio man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies was charged with murder after he plowed his car into counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Heyer was being remembered on Wednesday at a memorial service in Charlottesville.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, long a critic of the president, took direct aim, saying in a statement aimed at Trump, “Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.”
Other Republicans to criticize Trump’s remarks included former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Senator Marco Rubio, also a Trump rival in the 2016 campaign.
Republican former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush said in a joint statement: “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms.”