Politics

Trump Adviser: Criticism of Charlottesville Response Misses ‘Fundamental’ Point

Bossert says president's statement an 'assault on the hatred' seen at white supremacist rally in Virginia

White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert defended President Donald Trump’s response to a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that members of the mainstream media and the Left are making the issue “a little bit distorted” and are missing “the fundamental issue.”

On Saturday white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville. One woman died when a protester slammed into her and a group of other people with his car. In a statement Saturday afternoon, Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” that took place at the rally.

But Trump came under fire from critics for omitting the terms “white supremacists,” “white nationalists,” and “Neo-Nazis” from his response.

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Bossert said the criticism was entirely unfounded.

“The president not only condemned the violence and stood up at a time and a moment when calm was necessary and didn’t dignify the names of these groups of people, but rather addressed the fundamental issue,” Bossert told “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper Sunday on CNN.

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“What you need to focus on is the rest of his statement. The president didn’t just call for human beings to respect one another, which is his pragmatist, core fundamental bare minimum, but he called for ideally Americans to love one another, for all of God’s children to love one another,” Bossert continued. “That is a fundamental assault on the hatred that we’re seeing here.”

Tapper continued to grill Bossert on Trump’s decision not to call out white supremacists explicitly, both on Twitter and in his statement, noting that Trump has no qualms about calling out “radical Islamic terrorism.” Pointing to a white nationalist website that lauded Trump’s statement as being “really, really good” in calling out violence “on many sides,” Tapper asked Bossert if he was “at least willing to concede that the president was not clear enough in condemning white supremacy?”

“The words of the ignorant bear little with me and should bear less with you in the media,” Bossert said as he praised Trump for not “dignify[ing] the names of these groups of people” and addressing “the fundamental issue” at stake.

“Jake, what you need to focus on is the rest of [Trump’s] statement,” Bossert added. “I guess you’re going to continue to press on the words he didn’t say, but I’d like you to focus on the statement that he did say.”

Bossert also explicitly condemned “white supremacists, and Nazis, and groups that favor this type of exclusion.”

The White House press pool reported that a White House spokesperson offered a follow-up statement Sunday addressing questions about Trump’s Saturday statement, saying, “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

National Security Adviser H. R.McMaster also defended Trump’s all-encompassing language, saying on ABC News’ “This Week” that “the president’s been very clear. We cannot tolerate this kind of bigotry, this kind of hatred. And what he did is, he called on all Americans to take a firm stand against it.”

“This is a great opportunity for us to ask ourselves what are we teaching our children? Tolerance has to overcome this kind of hatred, this kind of hatred that is grounded, really, in ignorance. Ignorance of our values and what makes us unique as Americans,” McMaster added. “What the president did is he called out anyone, anyone who is responsible for fomenting this kind of bigotry, hatred, racism, and violence. And I think the president was very clear on that.”

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McMaster also said that the Charlottesville violence “meets the definition of terrorism.”

But Trump critics, perhaps eager to score political points, lambasted the president’s response.

Charlottesville city’s mayor, Michael Signer, told Tapper that “there’s two words that need to be said over and over again: ‘domestic terrorism’ and ‘white supremacy.’ That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend and we just aren’t seeing leadership from the White House.”

Pointing to Trump’s presidential campaign, Signer accused the president of carrying out “the intentional courting both on the one hand of all these white supremacists, white nationalist group like that, anti-Semitic groups. And then look on the other hand the repeated failure to step up, condemn, denounce, silence, you know, put to bed all those different efforts just like we saw yesterday.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a frequent Trump critic, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump must distance himself as far as possible from white supremacists and Neo-Nazis.

“I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he’s their friend,” Graham said. “I like President Trump. It’s up to him to correct the record here, not me … “We need more from our president on this issue.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) tweeted Saturday, “Praying for those hurt & killed today in Charlottesville. This is nothing short of domestic terrorism & should be named as such … Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

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Gardner told Tapper on “State of the Union” that “This is not a time for vagaries — this isn’t a time for innuendo or to allow room to be read between the lines.”

“This is a time to lay blame: to lay blame on bigotry, to lay blame on white supremacists, on white nationalism, and hatred, and that needs to be said,” he said. “This president has done an incredible job of naming terrorism around the globe as evil. Radical Islamic terrorism — whether it’s in Europe or the Middle East — he has said and called it out time and time again. And this president needs to do exactly that today.”

“Call this white supremacism, this white nationalism evil and let the country hear it, let the world hear it. It’s something that needs to come from the Oval Office, and this White House needs to do it today,” Gardner added. “White nationalists, white supremacists, they’re not a part of anybody’s base. They’re not a part of this country. They’re a part of hatred, they’re a part of bigotry, they’re a part of evil, and we need to stand up to that … We don’t want them in our base, they shouldn’t be in a base, they shouldn’t be claimed as part of a base, and it has to be made crystal-clear.”

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Gage Skidmore)

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