World

When evil strikes, Trump fails to call it by its name

US president slammed for weak response to Charlottesville car rampage at white nationalist rally

BEDMINSTER, NEW JERSEY For President Donald Trump, this week was when the real world began to intrude upon his presidency.

The violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white nationalists and counter-protesters that left one dead and many injured gave Mr Trump perhaps the first true domestic crisis of his administration.

And for many, some even within his own Republican Party, he came up short.

As images of rising tensions and a deadly car rampage in Charlottesville filled TV screens nationwide, the president was criticised first for waiting too long to address the violence, and then, when he did so, failing to explicitly condemn the white-supremacist marchers who ignited the melee.

Mr Marco Rubio, a Republican senator who was Mr Trump's rival for the party's presidential nomination, tweeted "very important for the nation to hear (Trump) describe events in Charlottesville for what they are: a terror attack by #whitesupremacists".

Mr Trump spent the week at his New Jersey golf club trying to show that he is working and not on holiday. He has held event after event with an approachability he hasn't shown for months.

SILENT

Yet, when news of Charlottesville first started coming in, Mr Trump was silent.

He first addressed the matter - through a tweet - on Saturday afternoon, after a white-supremacist rally was dispersed and a state of emergency declared.

By the time Mr Trump finally appeared before reporters at a staged bill-signing event at his club, footage of a speeding car slamming into a crowd of protesters had swamped social media and cable networks.

At the podium, Mr Trump read a statement rebuking the violence, but did not specifically mention the role of white nationalists. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," he said.

That was not enough for Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who chairs his party's Senate-election effort.

"Mr President, we must call evil by its name," he tweeted. "These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."

Mr Trump tweeted several times after the event, offering support to Charlottesville and police but refused to critique the violence more explicitly.

As a candidate and as president, Mr Trump has been accused of courting white supremacists and nationalists, the so-called "alt-right", as part of his passionate voter base.

After Mr Trump was elected, he installed Mr Steve Bannon, a key figure in nationalist circles and former chairman of the hard-right outlet Breitbart News, as a top adviser in the White House. - REUTERS

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