White supremacists have welcomed US President Donald Trump’s insistence on blaming “both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
The praise for the Republican leader drew concern and condemnation from across the political spectrum, including from senior figures within his own party.
Trump’s presidential campaign last year enjoyed broad far-right backing, and the Trump administration includes several figures linked to far-right and neo-Nazi groups.
No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) August 16, 2017
Tensions are high after a white supremacist mowed down a crowd of anti-racists on August 12 in Charlottesville, killing anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer and injuring dozens – some severely.
Trump initially blamed “many sides” for the violence and avoided calling out the far-right by name.
After an outcry, he specifically condemned white supremacy two days later.
By Wednesday, however, Trump again criticised “both sides” including anti-fascist protesters, who he described as the “alt-left”, a term popularised by the far-right.
‘Trump cares about truth’
In his now defunct neo-Nazi blog, the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin praised Trump’s reaction with the anti-Semitic headline: “Trump Finally Gives Half-Assed Charlottesville Statement to Whining Jew Media”.
“I knew Trump was eventually going to be like meh, whatever,” Anglin wrote. “Trump only disavowed us at the point of a Jewish weapon. So I’m not disavowing him.”
Others also read Trump’s reaction as made out of political expedience rather than genuine ill-feeling.
|Far-right activists clash with counter-protesters at the rally in Charlottesville [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]|
Neo-Nazis on Twitter and the 4Chan forum celebrated what they saw as a coded message of support from Trump.
The US president earned praise from white supremacist ideologue, Richard Spencer, and from former KKK leader, David Duke.
Responding to a tweet by far-right polemicist Ann Coulter, which praised Trump for standing up to the media, Spencer wrote: “Trump cares about the truth”.
Duke wrote on the social media platform: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa”.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a US-based civil liberties organisation demanding equal rights for African Americans and an end to police brutality.
Anger and concern
From the centre-right to the left, Trump’s behaviour and comments have attracted condemnation on Twitter.
During his address on Wednesday, the US president referred to “very fine people” on both sides of the divide.
Activist and writer Shaun King said Trump’s speech was an “an open embrace of white supremacy”.
“As expected, white supremacists loved the off-script press conference Donald Trump just gave. loved it.”
Senior Democrat and senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said Trump’s purported neutrality was indicative of his sympathies.
“By saying he is not taking sides, Donald Trump clearly is. When David Duke and white supremacists cheer, you’re doing it very very wrong,” he tweeted.
The Trump campaign targeted minority groups, including immigrants from Latin America, refugees, and Muslims.
When someone shows you who they are, you believe them. Trump is again letting white supremacists off the hook for #Charlottesville violence.
— Sen. Al Franken (@SenFranken) August 15, 2017
The president, a former reality TV star, has described immigrants from Mexico as “drug dealers, criminals, rapists” and called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US.
A watered down version of his Muslim ban was later introduced, only to be rejected by courts.
Source: Al Jazeera News