Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright on Wednesday argued that President Donald Trump’s fiery defense of the white nationalist, KKK and neo-Nazi groups responsible for Saturday’s violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, marked a “new low,” and lamented the erosion of America’s standing in the world under his presidency.
Albright, who came to the U.S. as a refugee after first fleeing then-Czechoslovakia when the Nazis invaded it during World War II, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that she was “so saddened at everything that I’ve been listening to in the last three days” and found Trump’s moral equivalency “so stunning.”
“He is not normal, and what has happened is, his reaction to this is not normal. It’s not American,” Albright said. “What he has done has obviously damaged himself, but made people wonder about this moral equivalency, which I just find so stunning, given what we know about appeasing fascists and right-wingers is the way to disaster.”
Albright, a frequent critic of Trump, said his remarks further damaged America’s global reputation, and she praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who offered a strong condemnation of neo-Nazi groups earlier this week.
“I’ve been troubled generally, frankly, about the way that President Trump never talks about democracy, that kind of the values of our foreign policy have not been mentioned,” she said. “And now we have sunk to this new low in terms of giving a moral equivalency to hatred.”
The former secretary of state and United Nations ambassador, who teaches at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, quipped that if Trump took her class, “I can guarantee that he would fail it, because he doesn’t understand how foreign policy is done.”
While members of both parties have condemned Trump’s remarks this week —some in stronger and more direct terms than others — Albright urged public officials and leaders to speak out more forcefully.
“What we have to do — those of us that have had office and those of us that have not — [is to] speak out about the fact that this is not the America that we know, that what we have to do is to understand that people have the right to speak, to free speech,” she said. “But racism, white supremacists, calling out various groups: This is not an American way to behave. And I think we all have to make our voices heard, and I think whatever party or wherever we come from, America will have to stand tall again for values and not this kind of disgusting discussion.”
Mitchell pointed out that Albright, famous for her collection of colorful pins and brooches, chose to wear one depicting the Statue of Liberty during Wednesday’s interview.
“That, for me, is what America is about,” Albright said of her pin. “That we really do want to welcome people and that people that come to this country want to be able to enjoy the liberties and then to really contribute to them and not to be told by a bunch of people carrying torches to get out and not to replace them. It’s anti-American in every way. So I thought the Statue of Liberty is a good symbol.”