From the Bushes and Barack Obama to Heather Heyer's Mom: 10 People Filling President Trump's Role as Consoler in Chief

President Donald Trump further roiled a troubled nation when he repeatedly insisted there's an equivalence—"blame on both sides"—between neo-Nazi white nationalists and the counter-protestors who stood up to racism at the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 11. It is traditionally the role of the president to console and heal in a time of national trauma. Here are some of the figures who have stepped in to fill that void

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Pete Souza

The morning after the violence in Charlottesville, Barack Obama tweeted an image of youthful innocence and racial harmony, writing, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion"— a quote from the late South African President Nelson Mandela. Within days, the tweet became the most liked tweet ever on Twitter, with more than 4.2 million likes — and counting.

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Heather Heyer, 32, was at the Charlottesville rally to counter-protest the white supremacists. She was killed when an alleged neo-Nazi deliberately plowed his car into a group of counter-protestors. On Wednesday, Aug. 16, a memorial service was held in Heyer's honor, where her mother, Susan Bro, spoke to a packed auditorium about her daughter's legacy. “They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” Bro said of Heyer's impact, which she vowed to continue herself: "I’d rather have my child. But, by golly, if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count." She received a standing ovation for her words.

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On Wednesday, Aug. 16, a new demonstration descended on the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia, where the white nationalists had marched just five days earlier. Hundreds of people peacefully gathered on the school's lawn for a vigil to stand against the racism and violence that had engulfed their campus. They sang songs, including the UVA alma mater, lit candles, and observed a moment of silence for Heyer, as well as Virginia state troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who were monitoring the rally when their helicopter crashed Saturday near the demonstrations.

04 of 10


Stonewall Jackson Monument
Chuck Myers/MCT/Getty

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville rally, there's been much talk of whether statues of Confederate generals and military figures have a place in today's America. They do not, say the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson, the late Confederate general's closest living relatives. In an article for Slate, Jack Christian and Warren Christian asked for the removal of Confederate statues in their home city of Richmond, Virginia. "They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display," the article read. "Our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought."

05 of 10


Merck-CEO Interview
Matt Rourke/AP

The CEO of Merck announced on Monday that he was leaving Trump's manufacturing council in direct response to Trump's comments on the violence in Charlottesville, according to the Washington Post. Frazier, one of the country's most well-known African-American CEOs, said that he felt compelled by his "personal conscience" to do so. “America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” he said in a statement. “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."

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DeGeneres voiced in two short tweets a defiant insistence on love and compassion. First, on the morning after the rally, she said: "Is this America now? We cannot let this stand." And following Trump's response she wrote: "When it comes to love, kindness, acceptance and progress, I believe there is only one side."

07 of 10


Antonio Guterres Sworn In As New UN Secretary-General
Drew Angerer/Getty

Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, was explicit in his feelings about what happened in Charlottesville, and racism in general, saying it's "poisoning our societies," according to the Washington Post. He then called on the world's citizens to take a stand against those who perpetuate "racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia." He said at the U.N. Headquarters in New York: "It is absolutely essential for us all to stand up against them everywhere and every time."

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George W. Bush and George Bush
Greg Smith/Corbis/Getty

Father and son released a joint statement condemning the violence in Charlottesville on Wednesday, August 16, and insisted that "America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms." They went on to quote Thomas Jefferson — whose statue the white nationalists surrounded on Friday during the rally. “As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by the city's most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights."

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Robert B. Neller,Mark Milley,John Richardson,David Goldfein
Susan Walsh/AP

The leaders of every branch of the military — the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines, not to mention the National Guard — made statements confirming their staunch opposition to what occurred in Charlottesville. The move was especially notable, as these military chiefs usually stay out of politics on a public stage—especially when it comes to taking a stand in opposition to their commander in chief. But one by one, they all spoke out. "The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks," General Mark A. Milley said. "It's against our Values and everything we've stood for since 1775."

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Haskel Lookstein
Frank Franklin II/AP

Lookstein has a personal relationship with the Trump family: Before Ivanka Trump's marriage to Jared Kushner in 2009, Rabbi Lookstein was the one to oversee her conversion to Judaism. He was even invited to speak at last year's Republican National Convention, but dropped out after facing backlash from various groups, including the Modern Orthodox community. In a statement made jointly with two fellow rabbis, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz and Rabbi Elie Weinstock, they condemned not only the Charlottesville violence, but Trump's reaction to it. "We are appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and anti-Semitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right," they wrote in the statement. "While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.”

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