MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted this week, “Any business that donates to Trump is complicit and endorses the white supremacy he espoused in Charlottesville . . . ” He is not alone. The Trump-hating media has spent the past few days humming “Charlottesville” as a mantra that somehow is supposed to prove President Trump is a racist.
Lest the smear become a fact, it is important to go back and clear up any misunderstanding. The event itself in August 2017 involved varied participants, not just neo-Nazis. President Trump’s response to it unfolded over three distinct statements, the last of which was a press conference. All of the statements were critical of white supremacy and none “espoused” it.
Here’s what really happened.
Charlottesville, Virginia erected a statue to Confederate General Robert E. Lee in 1924 and surrounded it with a public space called “Lee Park.” Nearly a full century later, the city council voted to remove the statue and rename the site “Emancipation Park.”
In response, Jason Kessler—a former Obama voter and veteran of the Occupy Wall Street movement—organized a “Unite the Right Rally.” Assorted white nationalists and neo-Nazis promised to join him in protest. That caused the Left’s own nothing-better-to-do violent agitators, Antifa, to announce plans to mount a counterdemonstration.
The event would also attract people who planned to march peacefully, either for or against the removal of the statue. It was not exclusively for Nazis and Antifa.
On the night of the rally, the extremists clashed. This was noted in contemporary news accounts. Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times tweeted (and later deleted): “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.”
Somewhere in the melee, a young man with a history of mental illness drove his car into a crowd and killed one of the protesters.
In the aftermath, President Trump made a statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country.”
All hell broke loose. The media objected that the president did not single out the political motivations of the killer, choosing instead to condemn “many sides.”
Only two months before, though, James Hodgkinson, a Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer during the presidential primaries, opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice in Northern Virginia. Four people were shot, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
Sanders immediately condemned the shooting, saying, “I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society, and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values.”
It is difficult to discern a substantial difference between Sanders’ condemnation of “violence of any kind” and Trump’s condemnation of “violence on many sides.” They essentially mean the same thing. When a sociopath with a peripheral involvement in politics commits a violent act, it is unfair to attribute political blame.
Trump had also addressed the Hodgkinson shooting, saying, “We may have our differences . . . We are strongest when we are unified and when we work for the common good.” The New York Times favorably noted that, “Mr. Trump steered clear of the possible political motivations of the gunman,” and instead issued a “dignified” call for unity.
That time it was OK for the president not to assign political responsibility. It was even dignified. Wonder why?
Trump followed his initial statement on Charlottesville two days later with a harsh criticism of Nazism, explaining that he was not certain of the political affiliation of the driver at first. That was not quick enough for the rabid Trump-hating media.
It was called a “belated” criticism, the suggestion being that Trump at first did not want to offend Nazis and only mentioned it when forced to do so by circumstance. A wild press conference followed where the questioners attempted to associate the president with something they called the “alt-right.” He angrily asked them to “define alt-right.”
Trump pointed out that white nationalists were not the only ones in attendance at the event. Antifa was also there, as were “very fine people” who were only marching for or against the removal of the statue. The media twisted the words “very fine people” to mean he was complimenting white supremacists, even though there is no honest way to read his statement as though that were his meaning.
The coverage of Charlottesville was a concerted effort to portray Trump as sympathetic to Nazis by unfairly parsing his statements to suggest a connection. More, the dominant media had been in desperate search for a hook to use in order to claim that this white supremacist movement is what got Trump elected.
Having spent little time in rural Ohio, they imagine a bunch of shotgun wielding racists, whom Trump attracted to his cause by appealing to their deplorable-ness. These are ridiculous and unfounded charges that effectively libel half of America.
When “Charlottesville” is cited by fake newshounds like Joe Scarborough as conclusive evidence that Trump espouses white supremacy, there is no truth to it. It is shameful appropriation of America’s history of racism to serve the media’s resistance to Trump.
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