This One Moment From Trump's Charlottesville Speech Shows Why White Nationalists Are On His Side

by Clarissa-Jan Lim
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

President Trump addressed the violent Charlottesville protests at a bill signing event in New Jersey on Saturday, but many fiercely condemned his vague remarks. In his brief remarks on Charlottesville, Trump ignored a reporter's question about white supremacists who support him, and commit violence.

"Mr. President, do you want the support of these white nationalist groups who say they support you?" a reporter asked after Trump wrapped up his speech. "Have you denounced them strongly enough?" Footage of the exchange showed the president pointedly ignoring the questions as he walked out of the room.

The white nationalist "Unite The Right" protest in Charlottesville saw violent clashes with counter-protestors on Saturday, but things took a tragic turn after a car plowed into protestors, killing at least one person. White nationalists waved Nazi flags and chanted "white lives matter" at the protest, and as the violence ramped up, Trump tweeted a statement denouncing the "hate" and "violence." But many noticed he failed to single out white nationalists, or their use of Nazi insignia.

His speech was similarly open-ended. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides," Trump said in his speech. "It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America."

The absence of him calling out white nationalists — many of whom claim to support him — wasn't something only reporters in the room noticed from his speech. Many people on social media were quick to criticize his failure to push back forcefully against the rising tide of white nationalism, and that his "many sides" remark essentially deemed neo-Nazis and their opponents as equally deserving of condemnation.

The "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville was one among recent white nationalist protests across the country. Fired up by Trump's incendiary rhetoric during the election, many flocked to his campaign and pledged their support. The alt-right, once an obscure political phenomenon, blossomed into a full-fledged movement — with its leader thanking Trump explicitly.

On Saturday, David Duke, the former head of the KKK, described the Charlottesville rally as a "turning point" for America. "We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump," he added. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he’s going to take our country back.

White nationalists have no qualms tooting their support for Trump. But as the rest of the country calls for him to say something — anything — it appears that Trump will maintain his stubborn refusal to denounce them explicitly.