Trump slammed for not condemning violent white supremacists
WASHINGTON: The White House has struggled to defuse the growing criticism of President Donald Trump's failure to immediately and explicitly condemn white supremacists for their role in Saturday's violent protest in Virginia, insisting that his condemnation included all such groups.
A woman died and 19 people were injured in the city of Charlottesville when a car ploughed into a crowd of people after a rally by Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists turned violent.
Two police officers died in a helicopter crash near the area.
A full day after the violence erupted, and after an initial statement in which Mr Trump made no mention of white extremism, a White House spokesman issued a statement saying: "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."
In an appearance at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Mr Trump faulted "many sides" for the violence, making no mention of the far-right militia groups involved in Charlottesville, some of whom were wearing Trump hats or T-shirts.
Vice-President Mike Pence, meanwhile, specifically condemned the hate groups by name. "We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK," Mr Pence said on Sunday at a news conference in Colombia, where he was on the first leg of a Latin American tour.
"These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms."
But he also defended Mr Trump, saying the president "clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred" on display in Charlottesville.
Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer laid much of the blame for the violence directly at the president's feet, saying in an impassioned appearance on CBS that Mr Trump had created an atmosphere of "coarseness, cynicism (and) bullying".
"He made a choice in his presidential campaign, the folks around him, to go to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices," Mr Signer, a Democrat, said.
Many Republicans joined in the criticism of Mr Trump, including former presidential aspirants Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News that he urged Mr Trump to "dissuade these groups that he's their friend".
"Their cause is hate," he added.
When Mr Trump was asked on Saturday in Bedminster whether he wanted the support of white nationalists, he ignored the question. - AFP