It was perfectly clear what President Donald Trump was avoiding in his comments about the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday. He condemned the hate and bigotry “on many sides.” He didn’t call out white nationalists or supremacists by name.
His words did not go unnoticed — prompting four top GOP senators, Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA), Orrin Hatch (UT), Cory Gardner (CO) and Marco Rubio (FL), to call out the president for sidestepping the force of evil at play.
Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism. https://t.co/PaPNiPPAoW
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 12, 2017
Rubio followed suit, pressing the need for Trump to acknowledge the events that transpired.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 12, 2017
For context, keep in mind that these are not back-bench Republicans. They’re well-known and influential players in Republican politics. They’re also not reflexive critics. They’ve defended Trump in the past. From this perspective, it’s a big deal to see senators buck their party leader so forcefully.
Still, their obvious statements against neo-Nazis shouldn’t normally look like an act of political courage. They are telling Trump that he needs to call today’s events for what they are: an act of domestic terrorism by white supremacists and white nationalists.
What ” WhiteNatjonalist” are doing in Charlottesville is homegrown terrorism that can’t be tolerated anymore that what Any extremist does
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) August 12, 2017
We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. -OGH
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 12, 2017
On Saturday, crowds of white Americans donned confederate flags and swastikas to march in the name of bigotry and hate leaving one counter-protester dead and injuring more than a dozen others. A rally goer purposefully drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters — an act that Trump has found it easy to call terrorism in the past.
As many have pointed out through the day, condemning these actions is among the lowest bars to pass — but it is one that Trump decidedly chose not to cross. He ignored questions from reporters asking if he condemns white supremacy.
Instead, as Vox’s Dara Lind wrote, the president ended up “signaling to the white supremacists that he is on their side.”