Whether or not President Trump is a straight-up racist or simply doesn’t want to alienate his white supremacist base no longer matters. Because his response to Saturday’s domestic terrorist attack that killed at least one person and injured 19 others leaves no doubt about which side he is on.
Trump had the chance to at least pretend to be presidential by leading the nation during one of its darkest moments—although it is a moment he personally helped to create. But instead of strongly denouncing the racism, bigotry, hate, and awful violence of Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, by directly assigning blame, the president—perhaps the single most powerful politician in the world—used vague, coded language that white supremacists can now use to claim victory.
With a nation in shock, the president of the United States used his moment in front of the cameras to praise himself and mention the name of President Barack Obama, a man he once disgracefully claimed was not born in the U.S.
It was a disturbing press conference that highlighted a horrible day.
Speaking at a pre-arranged press conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump is still on a “working vacation,” the president stated the following (emphasis mine) before exiting without fielding strong questions from the press:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.
What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.
I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agree that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection, really, and I say this so strongly, true affection for each other.
Our country is doing very well in so many ways. We have record, just absolute record employment. We have unemployment the lowest it’s been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country, Foxconn and car companies and so many others. They’re coming back to our country. We’re renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker. We have so many incredible things happening in our country, so when I watch Charlottesville, to me it’s very, very sad.
I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia. Incredible people. Law enforcement, incredible people. And also the National Guard. They’ve really been working smart and working hard. They’ve been doing a terrific job.
Federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor. He thanked me for that. And we are here to provide whatever other assistance is needed. We are ready, willing and able.
Above all else, we must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion, or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are. So, we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen.
My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history and our future together—so important. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.
Here are just some of the reactions that are flooding Twitter, most of them highly critical of Trump:
As this last tweet points out, Trump has never hesitated to condemn violence abroad that he attributes to “radical Muslims,” yet neither he nor anyone in his inner circle will condemn radical, domestic, white terrorism happening right here, on U.S. soil, right now.