“Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer,” Graham said to CNN.
Like Graham, countless people around the United States have denounced Trump’s remarks about the violence that erupted around a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday. Trump initially condemned violence on “many sides” on Saturday after a man believed to have ties to neo-Nazi groups drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring some 20 others.
Facing pressure to explicitly denounce neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups, Trump made a subsequent statement two days later, declaring, “racism is evil” and white supremacist groups are “repugnant.” Trump reversed course on Tuesday during a heated impromptu press conference, where he again blamed “both sides” for violence, condemned the “alt-left”—a term coined by Fox News host Sean Hannity—and said there are “very fine people” among both white supremacists and those who oppose them.
In response to the senator’s statement, Trump on Thursday blasted Graham on Twitter and refuted the widespread interpretation that his remarks served as a tacit endorsement of bigotry.
Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists……— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
Trump then invoked Heyer’s name to remind Graham, an opponent to Trump in the 2016 Republican primary race, that he won the senator’s home state of South Carolina.
…and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can't forget his election trouncing.The people of South Carolina will remember!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
After Trump’s statements about Charlottesville, Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, thanked Trump for his “words of comfort” about her daughter. “Thank you, President Trump, for those words of comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred,” she said in a statement.
Although Trump’s press conference was watched and reported on by countless news outlets, he then claimed that the media is not reporting exactly what he said.
The public is learning (even more so) how dishonest the Fake News is. They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry etc. Shame!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
Even noted conservative commentators and Fox News regulars were shocked and appalled by Trump’s statements during the press conference. One of the few public figures who heard Trump’s words and found them to be a forceful condemnation of hatred and bigotry was the new Republican National Committee and “Trump News” spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany.
President @realDonaldTrump once again denounced hate today. The GOP stands behind his message of love and inclusiveness!— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) August 15, 2017
The replies-to-retweets ratio on that tweet speaks volumes.