For the first time since the violent, white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, President Donald Trump directly denounced racist crimes on Monday, naming the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis as hate groups.
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs,” Trump said at the White House, “including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,”
Trump, however, did not flatly say that such groups were responsible for the clashes in Charlottesville.
The remarks came amid intense criticism over Trump’s muted response to the violence in Charlottesville, where one person was killed after a suspected white supremacist struck a crowd of counter-protesters. Separately, two state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the situation.
In his initial statements this weekend, Trump refused to directly name and condemn white nationalists responsible for the Unite the Right rally, which was organized to protest the removal of a confederate statue. Instead, Trump claimed “many sides” were responsible for the violence. While his administration gradually came out to condemn such groups, Trump himself remained silent on the issue.
By Monday morning, Trump appeared to finally identify someone to forcefully disavow: Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck, who had announced his resignation from the White House’s manufacturing advisory council over Trump’s refusal to stand against white nationalists.
Trump kicked off his press conference by stating his reason for traveling back to Washington from his vacation: jobs, tax cut reform, and trade deals.