President Trump specifically condemns “white supremacists” and other extremist groups as forces behind the deadly protests and counter-protests this weekend in Virginia, a White House spokesperson said Sunday.
“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 spokesperson said from Trump’s private golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
Trump was criticized by leading Democrats and Republicans for not singling out white supremacists in his comments in the immediate aftermath of the deadly clashes Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.
Heather Heyer was killed Saturday by a car that plowed into a crowd of protesters in the city’s downtown and that was allegedly driven by a white supremacist supporter. And two state troopers were killed when their helicopter, which was providing aerial surveillance of protests, crashed.
Trump made his comments before the alleged driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., was identified.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” the president said. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. “It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”
Trump also called for a study of the situation, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Saturday night announced a civil rights investigation into the events surrounding the “Unite the Right” rally.
Still, lawmakers were saying Sunday that Trump should have been more forceful in his condemnation of the white supremacists behind the rally. The protests were in response to a statue of Robert E. Lee being removed.
On Saturday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, also a Trump rival in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, tweeted: “Very important for the nation to hear describe in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted that Trump must “speak out against the poisonous resurgence of white supremacy. There are not ‘many sides’ here, just right and wrong.”
Hours before the White House statement Sunday, Ivanka Trump, a daughter of the president and a White House adviser, tweeted: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans — and be one country UNITED. #Charlottesville.”
Trump also got support before the White House release from Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and another Trump rival in last year’s GOP presidential primary.
“Donald Trump, I thought, was very explicitly clear in condemning what happened,” he said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “He will never satisfy those who hate his every word.”