WASHINGTON — After two days of calls from lawmakers and others to explicitly condemn the white nationalists who staged a rally over the weekend in Charlottesville resulting in three deaths — and a resignation from one of his economic councils in protest of extremism — President Trump today called hate groups “repugnant.”
The statement wasn’t on the White House daily schedule, but the White House press pool was pulled into the Diplomatic Room shortly after noon to hear Trump read prepared remarks that began with a statement that he was in Washington to meet with his economic team to discuss trade policy and tax reform efforts.
Trump’s remarks followed a late-morning meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray on the weekend’s deadly protests, and followed two days of GOP senators and others prodding the commander in chief to specifically condemn white supremacists.
“As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And as I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God,” Trump said today. “We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Trump said the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal from Charlottesville who was among the counter-protesters targeted by a car, “fills us with grief, and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers and our love.” The driver of the car, James Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, who was photographed rallying with neo-Nazis earlier in the day, was denied bond by a judge this morning.
The president recognized H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, the two Virginia State Police troopers killed in a helicopter crash Saturday while participating in enforcement of the day’s events. They “exemplify the very best of America, and our hearts go out to their families, their friends and every member of American law enforcement,” Trump said.
“These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation. In times such as these, America has always shown its true character. Responding to hate with love, division with unity and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice.”
Trump left without taking questions from the media.
Earlier, Trump lashed out at Merck chairman and CEO Kenneth Frazier for resigning from the White House’s American Manufacturing Council “to take a stand against intolerance.”
“Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs,” Frazier said in a statement. “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”
“As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” he added.
Trump shot back on Twitter, “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”