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Today's big Internet lie: Trump didn't condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis
He did. And it takes an astonishingly dishonest read to claim otherwise. But when you have to make everything about how awful Trump is, then that's what you do.
You've seen this everywhere today, and it's being repeated by left- and right-wing commentators alike. If you're the kind of person who skims the headlines and pretty much assumes what you see is accurate, you probably think President Trump refused in his statement yesterday to condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who started all the trouble in Charlottesville yesterday.
It's a lie. Trump absolutely condemned them.
The claim that he didn't is built on the quibble that he didn't specifically mention this group by name. That is true but it doesn't justify the broader charge being lodged against the president. Here is what he said:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence that's 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 the 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 go off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agreed 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 — and really 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 at the lowest it's been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country, Foxcon and car companies, and so many others, they are 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 great 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. We are here to provide any 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 are 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 an our future together. So important. We have to respect each other, ideally we have to love each other.
Now, the claim is that Trump did not condemn the white supremacists because he didn't specifically name them. I think it would have been good to name them, but that doesn't mean his statement contains no condemnation of them. It clearly does.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence that's on many sides." This clearly condemns everyone who's involved with the hatred, bigotry and violence. That clearly includes the neo-Nazis and white supremacists. This isn't even arguable.
But if that's not enough for you, he completely assailed their way of thinking when he said this: "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." That sentence assails everything neo-Nazis and white supremacists believe.
And finally, he condemns their worldview again when he says this: "We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history an our future together. So important. We have to respect each other, ideally we have to love each other."
You cannot seriously argue, when you read these passages, that Trump didn't condemn these people. He condemned what they did in Charlottesville. And he condemned how they think. Case closed.
But Trump's critics will never be satisfied with what he does, so they reject this statement because it doesn't specifically mention the neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Like I said, I think it would have been good to specifically condemn them. But there are defensible reasons the president might prefer not to. For one thing, these people don't deserve the attention their misdeeds are getting. Just as TV doesn't show the idiots who run on the field at sporting events to get on TV, it's not doing any good to give white supremacists attention just because they decided to seek it.
Additionally, Trump is correct that the other parties who showed up were also guilty of stoking the violence. If you only condemn the white supremacists, you imply that the others who got involved did not do anything wrong. That is not true. Do you need to condemn the white supremacists, Antifa and BLM all by name? What if other groups turn out to have been there, and you didn't mention them?
It takes no moral courage to condemn neo-Nazis, and after Trump got criticized for not doing so, every politician under the sun took to the Internet to issue their own gutless condemnations. Ooooh . . . real courageous, John McCain. You don't like Nazis. What a virtuous man you are.
This quickly became a check-the-box imperative for politicians, and they quickly got in line so as not to receive the same criticism as the president. Later today, the White House issued a clarification that really wasn't needed by anyone making an honest read of the original statement:
On Sunday, the White House was forced to clarify that President Trump "condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred" in a statement following up on the Saturday protests in Charlottesville, Va.
"Of course" the president condemns violence by "white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups," a White House spokesperson said in a statement.
Trump the previous day declined to name the groups behind the rally, instead blaming "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides."
"The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred," the White House clarified on Sunday. "He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together."
This is being treated by the media as a backtrack, but it's not. Anyone who wasn't looking for a reason to attack the president understood that the original statement meant the same thing the clarification meant.
What happened in Charlottesville was horrible, and ought to lead to some real introspection by this entire nation, as we discussed earlier today. Turning it into yet another cheap shot at Donald Trump is not only dishonest, it also makes it really difficult for the nation to deal with these difficult issues in a serious way. But a lot of people aren't serious. That's why we're wasting time talking about this.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!