President Donald Trump attacked fellow Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham early Thursday morning after the South Carolina senator criticized Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
Graham denounced the president in a statement on Wednesday, according to CNN.
“Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer,” Graham said, referring to Heather Heyer, who died after a driver rammed his car into a group of protesters demonstrating against the white nationalist rally. “I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”
Trump responded on Twitter, saying the claim that he made the comparison was a “disgusting lie.”
“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie,” Trump wrote.
The president then invoked the 2016 GOP presidential primary, in which he cruised to the party’s nomination while Graham’s presidential campaign failed to take off.
“He just can’t forget his election trouncing,” he said. “The people of South Carolina will remember!”
Graham responded to the president in a series of tweets.
“Mr. President, like most I seek to move our nation, my state, and our party forward – toward the light – not back to the darkness,” he wrote.
“Your tweet honoring Miss Heyer was very nice and appropriate. Well done,” Graham continued. “However, because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country.”
He concluded, “For the sake of our Nation — as our President — please fix this. History is watching us all.”
Trump said during a heated Q&A with reporters in the lobby of Trump Towers on Tuesday that he was “not putting anybody on a moral plane.”
“What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch,” he said.
“But there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.”
Trump placed blame for the violence on “both sides,” the white supremacists and the counter-protesters, of the conflict.
The backlash against Trump’s remarks was swift and noisy, with stars and many members of the president’s own party criticizing him.
Former KKK leader David Duke, meanwhile, thanked Trump for his “honesty and courage.”
“Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world,” Graham said.
Graham said in his statement that Trump’s words were “dividing Americans” and called for the president to work to unify the country.
“Mr. President, I encourage you to try to bring us together as a nation after this horrific event in Charlottesville,” he said. “Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.”