After two full days of backlash over his initial response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that claimed the lives of three people, President Donald Trump gave a full-throated condemnation of the "racism" that led to "the horrific attack and violence that was witnessed by everyone"

By Tierney McAfee
August 14, 2017 01:18 PM
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Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

After two full days of backlash over his initial response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that claimed the lives of three people, President Donald Trump gave a full-throated condemnation of the “racism” that led to “the horrific attack and violence that was witnessed by everyone.”

“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” the president said Monday afternoon in a previously unscheduled press conference. “We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under the Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”

The president’s comments come as he faces widespread criticism for not going far enough in his initial response to condemn white nationalists for the violence that erupted during Saturday’s rally.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence — on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said on Saturday, hours after the rally turned violent.

Before turning to the events in Charlottesville, Trump began his Monday remarks by boasting that the stock market continues to hit record highs and that unemployment is at a low since he took office. He went on to say that the Department of Justice “has opened a civil rights investigation” into the deadly car attack that killed “one innocent person and wounded 20 others.”

Trump did not acknowledge that his initial response blamed “many sides” for the violence, simply saying: “As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”

According to a pool report, the president declined to answer any shouted questions following his press conference, including several about whether he regretted waiting until now to denounce racism.

Until Monday’s press conference, the president had stayed largely silent amid the growing backlash. On Monday morning, he took to Twitter to lash out at an African-American pharma mogul who resigned from the president’s manufacturing council to protest Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville.

“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Trump tweeted on Monday.

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On Saturday, violence broke out at a pre-planned “Unite the Right” rally as the white supremacist protesters clashed with counter-protesters who were demonstrating against the event. A 20-year-old man identified as James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of ramming his car into a group of protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

On Monday, Trump mentioned by name Heyer and the two Virginia state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates, who were killed Saturday afternoon in a helicopter crash as they were responding to the rally.

“Her death fills us with grief,” Trump said of Heyer.

At the White House hours later, after signing a memo instructing his trade representative to crack down on intellectual property theft from China, Trump responded to reporters’ questions about Charlottesville.

Asked by CNN why he didn’t “condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend,” the president replied, “They have been condemned. They have been condemned.”

The network followed up by asking the president why he didn’t hold a 3 p.m. press conference on Monday as previously promised.

“We had a press conference. We just had a press conference,” Trump said, adding that “it doesn’t bother me at all” to answer more questions.

“But I like real news,” he said, telling the CNN reporter: “You’re fake news. You’re fake news.”