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GOP Congressman: Trump's Past Comments on Duke, Muslims, Curiel Make Charlottesville 'More Treacherous' to Handle

President Trump arrives to speak about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A Republican congressman said this morning that President Trump’s past comments, including criticizing U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel while calling him “the Mexican,” are making the president’s response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., “more treacherous.”

Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville was killed and 19 others injured by a driver who plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters on Saturday. James Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, who was photographed rallying with a neo-Nazi group earlier in the day, was arrested and is being held without bond.

On Saturday, Trump condemned violence on “many sides” but did not explicitly call out the white supremacists. After two days of pressure from GOP lawmakers, Trump on Monday read a statement calling racism “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.” He did not take questions from reporters.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told MSNBC this morning that Trump’s “initial response clearly was inadequate and it was a failed response.”

“Then he came out yesterday with a better response but it looked a little bit forced and halfhearted,” Dent said. “I think what’s affecting the president is the fact that his prior statements during the campaign, where he went after — he made some attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, the Indiana judge. And I think it makes these situations more treacherous for the president.”

Merck chairman and CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned from the White House’s American Manufacturing Council on Monday “to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.” 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!”

The CEOs of Intel and Under Armour followed, announcing that they too were leaving the Manufacturing Council. “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!” Trump tweeted this morning.

Dent said he was “miffed” at Trump’s attack on Frazier.

“I know Ken. He’s from Philadelphia. His father was a janitor. He went to Penn State. I went to Penn State. He was a few years ahead of me. I met with him many times as a friend. They’re doing great work there at Merck on cancer drugs like melanoma. I just thought it was a cheap shot,” the congressman said. “Other CEOs stepped off that council, too. He didn’t attack them. They weren’t African American, either. So I thought he didn’t handle that well at all. So I was — that really bothered me quite a bit.”

Dent said he was occupied with various engagements Saturday but found it “appalling” when he caught up with the news out of Charlottesville.

“Anybody who watched what happened on Saturday, we saw what happened. These were white nationalists, Klansmen types, neo-Nazis, whoever they were, they were itching for a fight. They came there with body armor. They had pepper spray. They had batons, helmets,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of demonstrations over the years. Most of the people who show up don’t show up armed like that. So this is a bad bunch of people. It had to be condemned.”

He added that during the campaign Trump “made some incendiary statements on Mexicans, the judge from Indiana.”

‘He mishandled the David Duke debacle. There are those types of situations, Muslims, too, he made all these comments. And I think that’s made it much more difficult for the president to deal with these kinds of situations like the one that occurred in Charlottesville the other day.”