President Donald Trump had a chance to explicitly denounce white supremacy and racism on Saturday after violence broke out at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving three dead ― one 32-year-old woman, who was struck by a car, and two state troopers, whose helicopter crashed outside the city while they were responding to the situation ― and at least 35 others injured.
But instead of specifically criticizing members of the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacists or the neo-Nazis who brought torches and bats to the rally, Trump blamed the unrest on “many sides.”
In fact, Trump commented on the fighting in Charlottesville several times on Saturday ― on Twitter and in front of the press ― but none of his remarks named the violence for what it was: a fight over white supremacy.
So people did it for him.
Celebrities, citizens and politicians from both sides of the aisle slammed Trump for failing to condemn the obvious and dropping the ball on moral leadership.
While Trump failed to publicly decry violent racists on Saturday, other conservative political figures said exactly what the president would not.
Even former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci argued that the president’s remarks were ill-advised, telling ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that Trump should have been “much harsher as it relates to the white supremacists.”
By Sunday, Trump aides and White House officials — while defending the president — attempted to make clear that his remarks were, at least in part, meant to denounce the extremist groups that precipitated Saturday’s violence.
“When he condemned bigotry on all sides, that includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “I think it’s clear, and I know it’s clear, in his mind, and ought to be clear to all Americans.”
The White House later released an official statement indicating the same sentiment.
“The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together,” the full statement read.
Yet, it was attributed to an unnamed spokesperson and still did not come from Trump himself.
This article has been updated with comments from Trump aides and White House officials.